London’s Pleasance Theatre is set to be turned into a sauna next month as a cast telling the stories of LGBTQ homeless people takes to the stage.
No Sweat, created by former Cardboard Citizens assistant director Vicky Moran, explores how prejudice and austerity intersect to create a critical situation for young LGBTQ people – thought to make up a quarter of the UK’s young homeless population.
The script, drawn from real stories and interview clips, is set in a gay sauna where many young people seek shelter. It shines a light on how difficult it is for LGBTQ people to find shelter while under a government that consistently cuts back services.
Creator Moran said she was inspired by stories she heard while working with Cardboard Citizens – stories which she insists are still hugely underrepresented in conversations around homelessness and in theatre.
She said: “I realised that a massive part of people’s journeys was how their identity played into it. Particularly for our young people, many of them were LGBTQI+ and so their experiences, of course, were completely different to many others who weren’t.
“Of course there are moments of joy, laughter and hope – ultimately it is a play about community and friendship. However, it is also a play that is based off real-life stories. Life is tough for all of us and comes with many challenges, even if you were born into families or countries that accept us for who we are.”
The play includes characters like Charlie, a Pakistani asylum seeker who must prove his sexuality if he is to be granted UK citizenship, and Tristan, who isolated himself from his family after he was made to feel ashamed of who he was.
Cast member Denholm Spurr was previously homeless and said: “I had financial problems and everything was just a bit of a mess. I’d acquired a drug addiction by that point as well so I stopped having friends that would let me over – it was all a bit of a disaster.
“I’d been to a sauna a couple of times and discovered through that process that Monday nights were free. I was fresh out of university and discovering who I was as a gay man.
“There’s a false confidence in feeling that everything’s fine and the hidden homeless aspect of not believing I was homeless.”
The No Sweat crew is also running a pay-it-forward scheme and inviting £15 donations, each of which will buy a ticket for a homeless or formerly homeless person who might not be able to attend the show otherwise.
Moran added that many young people don’t realise they are homeless, often because they are sofa-surfing or in other kinds of temporary accommodation.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
The creator also said there “just isn’t enough housing”, driving up the numbers of young vulnerable people forced to stay in difficult home situations or end up homeless.
“There are hardly any LGBTQI+ shelters in the UK and people don’t feel safe going into normal hostels,” Moran said. “There is transphobia and homophobia in our society and it just isn’t safe. And more than that, people don’t feel safe in their sexuality, and that can be very damaging.”
No Sweat begins on February 4 and runs until February 29. Tickets, between £12-16, can be bought here.