New Norwich production focuses on gender and sexual identity

The actors in rehearsal for the play Safe, to be performed at Stage Two at the Theatre Royal. From l

The actors in rehearsal for the play Safe, to be performed at Stage Two at the Theatre Royal. From left, Samuel, played by Nelson Gombakomba; Alicia, played by Fizz Waller; Tami, played by Alistair Hall; and Jack, played by Shaun McKay. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

A new production documenting the true-life stories of four young people getting to grips with their gender and sexual identity is taking shape in Norwich.

The actors in rehearsal for the play Safe, to be performed at Stage Two at the Theatre Royal. From l

The actors in rehearsal for the play Safe, to be performed at Stage Two at the Theatre Royal. From left, Samuel, played by Nelson Gombakomba; Alicia, played by Fizz Waller; Tami, played by Alistair Hall; and Jack, played by Shaun McKay. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

The production Safe chronicles their stories in a way which mixes poignancy and humour, and will be performed at Stage Two at Norwich Theatre Royal on September 28 and 29. It is part of the theatre's debut Creative Matters season which is focussing on gender and sexual identity.

The show is written by by Alexis Gregory who created the show after speaking to four young people helped by the Albert Kennedy Trust which supports LGBT young people aged 16 to 25.

Norwich based comedian and former UEA student Nelson Gombakomba plays Samuel, a Nigerian gay man struggling to come out because of his family's deep cultural objections to his sexuality. He said: 'His struggle for acceptance has a deep layer because of the cultural objections and his family are also against him being gay...He is someone who says 'I have done all I can. Accept me for who I am.''

Also in the cast is Shaun McKay who plays the cheeky and confident Jack, who is a young trans man. Shaun said: 'He uses his confident personality to hide the pain behind his experiences because his parents would not accept who he was, even after he had an invasive operation.'

The actors in rehearsal for the play Safe, to be performed at Stage Two at the Theatre Royal. From l

The actors in rehearsal for the play Safe, to be performed at Stage Two at the Theatre Royal. From left, Samuel, played by Nelson Gombakomba; Alicia, played by Fizz Waller; Tami, played by Alistair Hall; and Jack, played by Shaun McKay. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017


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The actor said he felt a great responsibility both to tell the story of a real person authentically and do justice to someone who was very different to him. He said: 'I am a straight guy and I did not have the coming out experience. I did a lot of research online and also, being an actor, I have a lot of friends in the LGBT community...They are some of my closest friends and wonderful people and I tried to empathise with them which helped a tremendous amount. I was also thinking 'how do I play a gay trans man?' I realised I just needed to play a man.'

The show has also marked a return to the Theatre Royal for Shaun who first cut his acting teeth on the theatre's arts courses. He said: 'It has been great to see so many familiar faces and see how people have grown and changed. When I was last here, Stage Two was also just a building site. It is such a remarkable space and wonderful to be back.'

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Safe is at Stage Two on September 28 and 29. Tickets £12 (£10 concs). It is suitable for people aged 16 and over. To book, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call 01603 630000.

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