☆★★★★ No Sweat
Vicky Moran’s play, No Sweat, is a fascinating and hard-hitting insight into homelessness amongst the LGBTQ+ community. Cleverly constructed from a series of real stories and verbatim interview clips, Moran smartly reveals the awkward realities of the world of gay saunas and ingeniously explores the lives of three young men forced to seek accommodation there – part of the forgotten generation of homeless youth.
Cleverly inviting us into the sauna, Flex, where we sit around the walls of the room in a quasi-immersive experience, albeit with our clothes on! We meet Tristan, a posh boy from Surrey, Alf, an old hand from Wales and Charlie, a Pakistani asylum-seeker – all gay, all dealing with family conflict, and homeless.
We learn of their peripatetic lifestyles and how the sauna becomes a hub to temporarily solve their housing crisis. We also hear of their gut-wrenching experiences in dealing with the bigotry of families coming to terms with their sexuality. In a series of expertly orchestrated monologues, Manish Gandhi as Charlie, James Haymer as Alf and Denholm Spurr as Tristan tell of their experiences. All give frighteningly emotional, almost filmic performances as unspeakable cruelty is revealed in a quasi-documentary technique. Gandhi’s tale of corrective rape and revolting beatings is something that I will remember for a long time. It was a stunningly brilliant scene, as were each character’s exposition of what can only be described as inexcusable abuse.
Vicky Moran also directs her work with great subtlety and ultimate compassion, never softening the point but ingeniously exploiting the closeness and familiarity that builds between the men. This is an ensemble on top form!
I must also mention the super-stylish design of Flex by Alex Berry, an equally stunning soundscape by James Ratcliffe and lighting by Tanya Stephenson.
No Sweat is not an easy watch. But it is a correctly exigent piece that should not be ignored.
No Sweat runs at The Pleasance from 4 to 29 February 2020