Homelessness is something often talked about but unfortunately not often fully understood. Toxic stereotypes ie. drug & alcohol abuse, laziness, are attributed to the reason people end up without a home and time is rarely taken to fully understand their situation.
UnHOWsed takes eight homeless women and gives them centre stage to use their strong and significant voices to bare their hearts and minds to audiences. Theatre doesn’t get anymore special or unique than this.
It was stressed by director Deborah Leiser-Moore before the performance began that this was not a play. And it became immediately clear that this piece of theatre provided more to audiences than any play could.
The performance began outside the theatre, on the street. One of the women was singing loudly, quietly still on the other side of the road. An incredibly pivotal moment came from the help of a stranger who facetiously applauded during a pause in the song. Even in this fabricated performance, the audience were still given glimpse of the very real attitudes homeless face from society on a regular basis.
The remainder of the performance took place inside the theatre’s auditorium. The most gripping moments were when the ensemble leaned into immense silences and stillnesses. This was when you felt most intimate with the women and their lives. The silences evoked a deep sense of loneliness and abandonment that these women had all tellingly experienced in some form or another through their lives.
The ensemble were incredible. Versatile, humorous, empathetic and sensitive women. It’s an absolute testament to Leiser-Moore for bringing out such deep emotion from the group of women.
The lighting design and AV played an incredibly supportive role in this piece. It certainly didn’t drown the raw emotion and storytelling being presented by the women on stage, rather it held it up for the audience to see even clearer. It also gave what was probably the most heartfelt moment in the performance, where each of the women’s faces, one by one, were projected onto the screen as the women on stage looked up at them. They were seeing themselves as they deserved to be seen.
And whilst Leiser-Moore’s work and encouragement of this ensemble was strikingly clear, it was the women themselves that leaned on each other more than anything. The unity, understanding and love they had for each other was incredibly palpable. They were still lonely, scared and separated as individuals. But when they were together there was nothing stopping them. Their humanity was evoked so beautifully. These real women on stage are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. And for an hour in the theatre their voices could be so clearly heard, and so they should be forever.
Read more about UnHOWsed here.
Review written by SAMUEL BARSON & originally published at theatretravels.org.