Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Beggars of York, York Theatre Royal - 12th July 2016 (Reviewed on behalf of North West End)

This was originally reviewed for North West End and the link can be found here.

Tiny Window Theatre Company presents The Beggars of York which opens York’s week long Take Over Festival. Written by Don Walls, a local poet, the play is based on true stories of people living rough in York – his late son, Peter, did so for 30 years and had busked performance and poetry around Bootham Gate. The play offers a glimpse into the beggars’ lives who survive on York’s streets.

The Beggars of York is made up of performance-poetry with use of illustrations and metaphors. The play part exposes the criminal justice system and the authority’s perceptions on beggars along with those who are wealthy and powerful, politically and financially. 
The cast portraying the five beggars’ project realistically their lives on the street including references to drug use, mental health and the lack of justice and these combined attributes brings controversy and is misinterpreted as ‘anti-social behaviour’. Walls’ son, Peter, who battled with schizophrenia and addiction, often clashed with the authorities. Along with homelessness and addiction, mental health sadly is still discriminated and stigmatised. One of the characters refers to depression as an ‘invisible presence’ which no one can see.
There is a lot of food for thought in this play; the director, Joshua Goodman, asks the audience to rethink of their assumptions and feelings about beggars on the street. As shown in the play there is more about the beggars than what meets the eye, particularly with the close knit community of the homelessness. Yes there is help available but this play encourages one to look at life from the beggars’ eyes and, yes, it can happen to anyone.
This play is performed in York Theatre Royal’s Studio with its intimate space and the audience is close to the action. Sara Burn’s lighting, in particular, compliments appropriately the mood and setting for the story, and the minimum use of props ensures full attention on the characters concerned.
This excellent play encourages the audience to think beyond ‘the box’ and its themes. The cast and crew did a stellar job in putting and performing this play together which raises awareness about the homelessness and commemorates Walls’ late son.

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