New company Bellyfeelhave collaborated with Crisis, a charity for the homeless,to develop a series of monologues that illustrate the tough and varied experiences of those living without a permanent home. People entering the auditorium are handed a coin and told to place it in a cup of our choice. This choice will define the rest of the show: it dictates which four monologues we see and in what order. This power is dramatically cut against the relative powerlessness of the homeless. Their choices, we are told in the opening monologue, led them to homelessness. But they wouldn’t choose it. It’s a powerful statement to begin the show with, and a nice way to set up what proves to be a thought-provoking and slick performance.
Though the scripts could do with some more light and shade, at moments veering into moralising or cliché, the overall effect is poignant
The monologues hang together thematically, showing a number of different issues and experiences of homelessness. As well as contrasting experiences, Bellyfeelalso present contrasting styles. One of the monologues, performed by Lucy Ireland, is simple and naturalistic: storytelling at its most stripped back. Lighting guides us through sunrise to sunset, with details such as a slow pulsing blue light placing us on the street outside. Faint sounds of a busy road can be heard. It’s very atmospheric, and Ireland gives an engaging and nuanced performance.
The other monologues are more stylised, twice using small ensembles to aid the storytelling with physical movement. Esme Lees’ monologue about losing her child includes elements of physical theatre, and is executed beautifully. Roisin Sheridan’s monologue, in particular, is incredibly powerful as she physically embodies the struggle of a young woman who is constantly abused by the men in her life. Three hooded figures sit behind her, mirroring her movement like three snake charmers: a constant threat to her safety on the streets. A third, delivered by Carla Addyman, mixes stylised movement with a highly conversational script.
The monologues are both conversational and at times poetic, and show a great range of talent and technique. Though each performer has created a monologue that is its own piece in its own right, Bellyfeel’s collaborative process results in a curated programme of performances that, in any order, thread together beautifully and contrast without jarring.
The collaborative and ever-evolving style of the show is well thought-out. Though the scripts could do with some more light and shade, at moments veering into moralising or cliché, the overall effect is poignant. This is a simple but very effective show that comes doubly recommended. Go and see it, and then go and see it again. After all, it’s different each time.