• Amy Toledano

No Sweat presented by Pleasance Theatre

Image courtesy of Ali Wright

What is it?

Written and directed by Vicky Moran, No Sweat is an intimate glimpse into the world of gay saunas and the LGBTQ+ homelessness crisis.

What is it all about?

Alf and Tristan are two young gay men who have been cast out of their homes and away from their families after coming out. They meet each other in a gay sauna in London - a place where many queer homeless people seek refuge and shelter.

Here they are introduced to Charlie, a Pakistani asylum seeker who fears persecution back home. Their individual stories are revealed through moving monologue and duologue interludes, all while attempting to navigate a flawed support system, make ends meet and rebuild their lives after being uprooted elsewhere.

How did it make me feel?

No Sweat is not an easy watch by any means. Underscored by an awareness of the disproportionately high rate of homelessness among those who identify as LGBTQ+, the play touches upon prostitution, drug abuse, immigration and persecution. As such, it is truly touching to see moments of genuine connection and humour.

The cast is formed of three distinct characters: Alf, played by James Haymer; Tristan, played by Denholm Spurr; and Charlie, played by Manish Gandhi. Special note must be given to Gandhi, who presents the heartbreaking story of a young Pakistani man who has been forced to seek asylum in London for fear of his life back home. At times amusing and at times stern, Gandhi presents arguably the most fully formed character of the show.

The set is sparse and made up of a few metal blocks and some large window panels on wheels. These items are rearranged throughout the show, however at points their movement seems gratuitous. There is also the risk of ever-changing sightlines, even in the small, thrust space. This movement too often distracts from the poignancy of the narratives being shown on stage.

Anything else?

Carrying with it a powerful message about homelessness, gender and sexuality, this show is a much-needed tool to educate about a topic that is chronically unrecognised. At times disjointed and unsure of itself, No Sweat, if nothing else, provides an essential insight that must be seen, heard and acted upon.

Emma x

No Sweat is playing at The Pleasance until Saturday 29 February 2020.

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