Last Friday, I went to see NoF*cksGiven at the Vaults Festival, London. The play’s protagonist, Stacy is living with her best friend Stella after a break up with Psycho-Steve. Stacy and Stella are loud, fun loving, party girls, who have been together through the good times and the bad, and always found something to laugh about. Except recently Stella’s life is steering towards a steady relationship, work and thoughts of a family while Stacy is one of the hidden homeless, struggling to get to sleep on Stella’s cold, uncomfortable sofa and unable to meaningfully connect to anyone else.
The play is anti slut-shaming – Stacy is an empowered woman, not afraid of her sexuality, not afraid of pleasure – there is quite a lot of f*cking for a play titled NoF*cksGiven, but it seemed that Stacy did not ‘give a f*ck’ about those partners compared to the way she deeply cared about her friend – the main stable relationship where sexual partners come and go.
One of the themes in the play is hidden homelessness. A recent report from the London Assembly estimates that “13 times more people are homeless but hidden than are visibly sleeping rough – as many as 12,500 each night. ” This includes people who are sofa surfing, squatting and sleeping on public transport. I think the play really captures the lack of stability of this lifestyle; at the start of the play we see the fun side of Stacy living with her friend but as the play progresses we begin to see the tension of the arrangement. When the play ends, it is not certain what will happen in their relationship or in the living arrangement.
Stacy has just come out of an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship with psycho-Steve. She jokes about this in the play but there are also hints that it has had a profound influence on her. Research shows that many people become homeless after escaping from domestic violence but it is not just the practical loss. Physically and psychologically, persistent emotional abuse can have a detrimental impact on health and well-being. Compare this to leaving the armed forces which is also linked to an increased risk of homelessness – we know there it is a direct link with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) but there is still not enough recognition about the long term effects of other types of trauma. Leaving a corrosive relationship is important but often the wounds received take longer to heal.
Stacy drinks, smokes and takes drugs. The play celebrates this as part of the party lifestyle, not giving a f*ck what people think, enjoying life. As a dramatherapist, I was also aware about the link between trauma and drug use. Coke can take someone away from reality and create a feeling of intense happiness – if someone is living with abuse or the long term mental health impact of having experienced abuse, drugs which can numb the pain or induce happiness can be very appealing as a way to escape from reality. I got a sense that Stacy’s motivation for taking the substances changed during the play.
I hope to see more work from the writer in future as there is lots to say on these topics.