Made by a group of formerly homeless women over the age of 50, UnHOWsed provides an opportunity for these women to share their experiences with homelessness and to raise awareness of the constantly growing number of homeless women in the country. A collaboration between theatre company Tashmadada and housing organisation Voices of the South Side, this multidisciplinary performance piece is a stark yet poetic exploration of life on the fringe of society.
Each performer (Carla Mitterlehner, Susan V.M. McDonald-Timms, Jan Grey, Diann Pattison, Maurya Bourandanis, Catherine Samsury, Karen Corbett, Liza Dezfouli) sits on a chair in a pit of sand. There are beams of light shining down from the ceiling, lighting up their individual faces in the otherwise darkened space. They take in deep, sharp breaths and move their bodies as they do. It’s hypnotic to watch and the expressions they wear are indicative of the stories they have to tell. The impact from all these elements display the strength and resilience in each woman but also hints at their fragility and vulnerability.
Director Deborah Leiser-Moore finds the beauty of these womens’ circumstances through uniform and flowing movements. Every woman has a moment in the spotlight that touches on their history. One sits in her car and prepares dinner for herself consisting of what appears to be a single piece of sausage and a glass of wine, but she eats it with dignity and patience. Another takes a shower and bathes herself using a solar shower bag, as if she has no other care in the world. Leiser-Moore never rushes these snapshots into their lives and allows time for us to put ourselves in their shoes and think about where these women have come from, as well the countless others still in their positions.
These beautiful and considered visual moments of UnHOWsed are complemented and contrasted by some hard-hitting verbal ones. A monologue on the difficulties of completing basic common tasks in life is passionately delivered and cuts straight to the heart. How is she supposed to fill out a Centrelink form when she has no computer or internet access? How is she able to buy Christmas presents for her family when she has no money?
At the beginning of the show, a woman is seated on a bench across the road from Theatre Works and begins to sing. Many of us would not have noticed her prior to this, as she sat there doing nothing. It’s a poignant reminder of how easily they can be invisible to the community. With older women being one of the fastest rising group of homeless people in Australia, it’s time that everyone’s eyes opened up to the reality we are facing and UnHOWsed is a captivating way to start.
Read more about UnHOWsed here.
Review written by MYRON MY & originally published at mymelbournearts.com.