The Mad Hatter Bum Party confers a false and fairly nauseating dignity on being without a home. They’re joking around about one of them having urinating where someone sleeps: ha ha! Ha. Such fun. All in it together in this street-smart utopia. We don’t need society if we have each other. But I will fight you for the last scrap of food.
I mean, come on. Homeless people don’t look like they’ve just frolicked through Urban Outfitters on their way to check out a new Vans Authentic colourway. Have this entire group of people run away from affluent suburban London? Costumes are important. You can’t make being homeless look cool. Being homeless really sucks. Even if you belong to a ‘homeless performance troupe’ it sucks. This young cast look like they’re about to present a children’s television program rather than a play about the homeless.
In fact, this subject is treated as if it were being presented to children. Privileged children, at that. As with many plays by young writers and companies it has no nuanced appreciation of what it’s dealing with. They get an idea, become enamoured with it, and it blinds them to the hollowness of their conceit, the short-sightedness of their metaphor, or the dreadful unoriginality of their story. Still, somehow it becomes something and something that may well be competently executed. Yet a paucity of thought cannot be overwritten by technical achievements: without a centre that involves some kind of meaning, some kind of offering, no play can claim a right to exist.
There is much in this play executed well. Directors Dan Sellick and Jack Sterne have orchestrated some good work with props and puppetry, which is often very effective. One of the two stars above is for this aspect of the play alone. A final monologue coloured with the linguistic ticks of rap will interest some but those people need listen to Tupac or Rakim to get a real idea of how sophisticated rap can be. The Mad Hatter Bum Party and its creators mean well: they’re young and have time to go on to better things. I don’t think, however, that there is anything to this piece other than a well-coordinated use of props and an attitude to the homeless which is hopelessly, almost offensively, naïve.