Pleasance Theatre, London
Written and directed by Vicky Moran
No Sweat sets out to explore the ever-growing LGBTQ+ homelessness crisis by sharing real-life stories from a 24/7 male sauna. This 80-minute performance takes us into the intimate world of the sauna, the audience greeted with club stamps on their hand into a hazy shiny space with towels hung behind seats. It is this intimacy and closeness that writer and director Vicky Moran bases the performance.
Using interviews combined with the shifting set of transparent barriers from designer Alex Berry, the performance gives the audience an almost voyeuristic insight into this subculture of the gay world. This is soon embraced with intimacy and empathy as we delve into the characters lives and we see how the system around them led to them living in a spa. The direction always keeps you close to the characters and stripped back, whilst the movement focused transitions allow it to flow, and sometimes expand on the story.
The cast here do an amazing job of lifting the show, giving nuanced character driven performances that give that closeness the show demands giving the audience empathy, guilt and anger through the show. In our press night their professionalism was highlighted as three fire alarms went off and the auditorium was cleared once as a result. Every time the actors plowed on through the sirens until venue staff made an announcement, and after waiting out in a cold alley wearing only a towel they then resumed the show as if nothing ever happened. James Haymer gives us an engaging Alf who acts as a mentor and guide to the Spa, but also shows us how the years of this lifestyle has given him an unpleasant he tries to cover; Denholm Spurr delivers us a unsure boy trying to figure out his place in this new sub-culture whilst battling with his feelings towards his family. The stand-out performance is from Manish Gandhi who as spa worker, Charlie, starts off as an unassuming background character but thanks to the likeable and realistic performance soon has you rooting for him, especially after some of the most challenging and bleak scenes in the script.
I left the theatre with questions and feelings and spent the commute home engaged in conversations about how and why the situations we had just seen happens. No Sweat is definitely a conversation starter and opens a door into a world that is more common that most realise, told in a way that touches your heart. This is definitely a show to open eyes, I hope the right people go, and that we start to see more human work like this about the many other issues and groups within this culture that face equally tough and frustrating challenges every day.
© Dan Ramsden – 2020 – @DanielRamsdenFL
No Sweat runs at The Pleasance Theatre, London, until Feb 29th 2020
Image © Ali Wright