Rough Sleeper ★★★ The Actors Centre (online) | September 10 - 19, 2021


Jo Emery's play Rough Sleeper has been filmed for streaming but having the "Man" in a real street adds little to the audience experience. In many ways this decision detracts from the immediacy of a live actor in a theatre. On stage the audience would be drawn in more easily, and occasional laughs and sighs of sympathy would make us feel closer to the character. Much of the seventy minute piece has Haydn Davis as the "Man" in question recounting his life story. One is naturally compassionate as we learn, how following a series of calamities, he has declined from prosperity to his present state of homelessness and alcoholism. Highlighted by some extremely telling close-ups, he shares with us the loss of his parents and how grieving can descend into tragedy. Unfortunately, similar heartrending stories can be heard along most high streets today, and we felt that using verbatim quotations from actual homeless people might have made for a more hard-hitting, realistic piece. At odds with the script, Ian Hylands' production is set in a simple, closed up shopfront with no large doorway or canopy to give shelter from the elements. The soundscape also doesn't quite fit with the passing traffic. Perhaps, the most unforgivable error comes from the woefully inaccurate subtitles; these are intended to help those with hearing problems but they are so unbelievably error-strewn as to be totally confusing for anyone relying on them. In the final analysis however, we can only applaud Emery's laudable attempt to raise awareness of homelessness and to highlight the incredibly sad and profoundly disturbing life of a rough sleeper.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.

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