1 May 2015

Home: real stories of homelessness from Edinburgh

By Zoe Greenfield

Home. What is home? How do you end up without one? And how do you get back ‘home’ after life on the streets?

Home takes a novel route to addressing these questions. An original, multimedia show created and performed by homeless and formerly homeless clients of Crisis, it is based on their own personal experiences. It explores the human stories behind the statistics using comedy, drama, video, song and even puppetry... and gives an honest and stark insight into life on the streets of Edinburgh. Though possibly little rough around the edges - perhaps down to opening night nerves - any unevenness is made up for in energy and insight.

“Fuck statistics, I’m a person. I’m real!” says Danny, whose quest for home and security we follow throughout the show. As the stage fills with characters for the opening scene, each entrance brings a new story of just how easy it is to become homeless. This isn’t just one story of homelessness, it’s about each individual and their personal journey - abusive relationships, military service and growing up in care.
The Three Wise Men

You may be wondering how puppets fit into all this. I know I was. Yet as the giant puppet heads (which took the team three months to make) appear from behind the backdrop curtain, I have to concede they're a great choice for the depiction of Maximus (a corporate giant awarded the contract for getting people back to work on ‘wageus minimus’) and Sanctions (the benefit god). Their effigies loom large over the stage, looking down disdainfully on all those below, including the audience.

The mighty and universally feared Sanctions imposes benefit cuts as a form of penance for sinning against society. But the audience is left wondering about the soul of the system rather than that of the so-called ‘scrounger’ in an emotive scene which sees a terminally ill cancer patient facing the rest of his life on £11 per week.

It is a show of contrasts, ranging from raucous ensemble number ‘The 3 Step Hoedown’, to the stargazing Three Wise Men, who enjoy an alfresco aperitif and put the world to rights. A calmness descends at the end of the first act when Kirsty Heggie takes the stage with her guitar for a stunning performance. Granted, at times there is a definite sense of winging it (I think the technical term is improvisation), but even then you get the feeling you’re listening in on a real conversation and wonder quite how far it might go.

"You lose your job, you hit the boozer. Not knowing yet you’re a fucking loser. Then she can't stand you anymore. Here's your bag and there's the door."
(Verse 2: The 3 Step Hoedown)

A confident and charismatic performance from MC Blair Christie ties the scenes together well and acts as a moral compass for the audience asking, 'have you thought about what you would do?'.
It takes guts to get up on stage. But to tackle some serious and deeply personal issues, challenge stereotypes AND add a touch of humour deserves some serious kudos. This show is personal. It’s full of passion.

As Danny walks the high wire in the closing scene, we're reminded that life is a balancing act between the pain of the past and hope for the future, all the while grappling with an unfair and sometimes cruel system. I am full of admiration for the cast.

Home is on tonight and tomorrow at Old St Paul's in Edinburgh. And Edinburgh's newest theatre group have aspirations to take their show to the Fringe and on tour. You should see it. You might just learn something.