Sheltered

Mon 15th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Serena Basra

at 03:11 on 17th Aug 2016

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This is a play centred around choices. With a coin pressed firmly into your hand you enter the theatre to face four members of the cast who are each holding a sign, and you ‘donate’ your spare change to the individual whose values you desire to see in the show’s various monologues. The long overdue conversation about the realities of homeless living has finally begun.

It begins with Lucy Ireland who fervently addresses issues that society is adept at turning a blind eye to, such as our (seemingly absent) welfare state. Unfortunately despite this promising subject matter, the writing soon falls into clichéd tropes. Ireland yells and swears brashly to illustrate how invisible she feels, yet the gestures often feel forced and hollow as she cries out incessantly to be noticed. Her act does clearly elicit sympathy from the audience but the story possesses the potential for a greater deal of nuance. The following monologue executes this impressively as Esme Lees delightfully croons her way through a tale of love, loss, and the startling unfulfilled life of a deceased child.

An interesting idea featured within two scenes of the play is the use of an ensemble cast who perform a physical accompaniment to the respective monologues. Unfortunately, misguided direction allows for clunky movements to overshadow the writing and at times it does feel simply awkward. This is not to say that the use of physical movement in the play is wholly a failure. Roisin Sheridan twists and contorts her body in a thrillingly serpentine fashion as she charms the audience through her tale of a troubled childhood, ending on an epic climax. The story refuses to stop here, and its continuation robs the audience of an opportunity for greater interpretation and forces her performance to shift from enthralling to tiresome.

A final note worth making is in regard to the exceptional Sarah (Hannah Margerison). She is wonderfully expressive; emotions dance across her face whilst she locks you in a dead-eyed stare. She transforms the audience en masse into the subjects of letters she longs to write, and generates perhaps the most moving, and natural, performance of the play.

'Sheltered' undoubtedly draws attention to the failed dialogue between those who live on the streets and those who do not. A troupe of skilled actors who need to hone their writing abilities, it is undoubtable that this company has a promising future ahead.

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Olivia Cormack

at 10:27 on 17th Aug 2016

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‘Sheltered’ is a show about choices. Upon walking in each audience member is given a coin, and told to use that coin to vote for the values they want to see portrayed in that day’s performance. Values such as ‘Eye Contact’, ‘Permanence’, ‘Childhood’ and many more in various combinations are displayed on the four option cards, and to choose one is to reject three others, to hear one story is to silence the rest. This simple act of voting, the audience determining which scenes we shall see and which actors shall perform, demonstrates the moral of the play; choice is a privilege, and sometimes your choices are made for you.

The venue seems tailor made for this performance, the architecture naturally suggesting an underpass or the underside of a bridge. The production team make full use of this architectural blessing, using lighting and soundscape to accentuate the sense of muted life passing by or above the actors, who are isolated from the society which surrounds them.

The scenes combine a variety of performing arts, each based around a monologue which tells you something of how a particular character came to lose their home. The monologue form means that this play relies heavily on the acting abilities of the cast and luckily they do not disappoint. Lucy Ireland’s opening monologue especially was skilfully acted and the most naturalist performance of the show; her anger and frustration forcing those of us in the audience to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our society. Each performance appears well-researched and everything, down to the movements of the actors, has evidently been orchestrated to align with the mood and narrative of the scenes.

The changing theatre forms and more abstract performances are not used gratuitously and each form highlights an underlying emotional tension or issue in the scene rather than detracting from its sincerity. For instance – the physical theatre and melodic soprano of Esme Lees’ performance adds delicacy and abstraction to a scene in which she recounts the death of her child, the song reminiscent of the lullabies her character must have sung in the past. The serpentine, occasionally rigid movements of Roisin Sheridan’s scene illustrates the disjunction between her rigid unwillingness and the insatiable pursuit of her abusers. The presence of three supporting actors creating a sense of impending threat that the scene might otherwise lack. Hannah Margerison’s ultimate monologue is intense to say the least. For me the most confrontational of all the scenes, Margersion ensures that no audience member escapes without having seriously questioned their attitudes to homelessness.

Important, and unashamedly political, this show reminds us that everyone has a story to tell, and that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we may not get to be the author of ours.

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