Daisy King’s NOFUCKSGIVEN shines a pertinent, if slight, light on hidden homelessness, millennial solitude and how perception and reality often don’t have much in common. More development could elevate the piece’s conclusion and efficacy, but its jokes are plentiful, performances are infectious and topic is vital.
The King’s Head Theatre’s exemplary season championing all-female writing continues with Daisy King’s NOFUCKSGIVEN – a 45-minute dive into hidden homelessness, millennial solitude and how perception and reality often don’t have much in common.
Much like the same season’s Baby Box began overdue conversations about endometriosis, the underexplored epidemics of sofa surfing and hostel-dwelling seem equally pertinent for Bruised Sky Productions to here be shining a light on. Research from December indicates almost 1 in 10 young people in the UK rely on goodwill for a bed for weeks on end, and whilst 4,500 homeless people live on our streets, the Big Issue believe that number exceeds 300,000 once those hidden away in temporary shelters are factored in. Just let that sink in for a sec.
We experience the effects, internalisation and self-denial that can come from hidden homelessness in NOFUCKSGIVEN‘s central character, Stacy. Played with a wide-eyed, infectious energy by Phoebe Thomas (who I recognise from the Bunker’s Eyes Closed, Ears Covered, but seems better known for Hetty Feather & a long Holby stint), our protagonist’s never allowed access to the safety and comfort of the wings – even during the preset (an apt directorial decision). Perpetually trapped in an onstage void of darkness and predominantly nasty secondary characters, we watch Stacy struggle to survive over the course of a few days – along with the coping mechanisms she, and her best/only friend, must negotiate in order to do so.
So far, so good – though I must admit it took me longer than usual to articulate exactly what NOFUCKSGIVEN‘s about. At 45-minutes, the piece does feel slighter than its monumental subject matter probably deserves. The surface of hidden homelessness certainly gets scratched, but in-depth exploration of much other than the survival strategies that Stacy uses to remain superficially ‘happy’ and ‘fun’ seem rather abruptly halted by a premature final blackout.
Perhaps the writing could be said to fall into a similar trap as its protagonist: feeling less comfortable in itself, its voice and its efficacy as soon as the music, smiles and jokes cease. The concluding scene, following Stacy and best friend Stella’s confrontation, seems to require more development in particular. I’m by no means asking for a satisfying ending, but reintroduction of the direct address device (that Thomas is very natural at delivering, but gets slightly forgotten about after the first 15 minutes) may help the company find a way to wrap proceedings up in a more effectual way. Having sat through a lot of ‘delusion’, you yearn to understand at least slightly more of Stacy’s reality – and after presenting the audience with a pertinent wake-up call to a modern epidemic, the production perhaps doesn’t ask us to do enough with that information either. I’d have loved to understand a clearer way of how I could help, or perhaps even exit material to point me in a particular direction.
Supporting actors Velile Tshabalala and Gaz Hayden demonstrate adept multi-roling but feel somewhat underused. I understand a 45-minute piece will necessarily focus its attention on one individual but, in particular, I’d have appreciated the writing to allow Stella more of a multi-layered love narrative of her own. We never hear her converse with her partner, for instance – and although Stacy talks about how brilliant she is in the third-person, I wasn’t quite convinced she was as complex and three-dimensional a character as King does successfully manage with Stacy.
That being said, jokes are aplenty and any performance with the ambition to kickstart pressing conversations deserves commendation. NOFUCKSGIVEN may be slightly rough-around-the-edges and perhaps some scenes feel a little early in their development to be inviting press in – but the company’s good intentions are palpable and I wish them the best of luck with any further development ahead of future runs.