In Plain Sight is a site specific promenade performance, with food, about street homelessness, first performed at the B arts building in Stoke-on-Trent in January and February 2020. Created in partnership with colleagues at B arts, this piece was commissioned by Voices of Stoke-on-Trent who are responsible for co-ordinating services for rough sleepers across Stoke-on-Trent. The brief for the commission was to create an interactive, engaging piece of theatre (with songs!) that exposed some of the myths of homelessness and rough sleeping as well as exploring some of the factors that might inhibit an individual’s ability to access support when it is offered. The show was directly informed by approximately 50 anonymised case studies as well as in depth interviews with three people with lived experience of long-term street homelessness. These three individuals were also part of the final performance, working ‘in plain sight’ as ushers to help guide people around the building. Their involvement was only revealed at the end of the show, when large banners with their faces dropped down, and they made short statements attesting to the things that members of the public can do to help those living on the streets.
“I just couldn’t stop grinning. The trauma informed buskers! It was ingenious! Inspired! I knew I was going to enjoy the evening. If you’re unfamiliar with, or slightly alarmed by, the term trauma informed care, don’t be dissuaded from seeing this interactive, emotional roller-coaster of a performance. In a hilarious, informative and well-balanced manner it explores the predicament of Tash and Steve.
Both homeless when we meet them Tash and Steve attempt to navigate the frustrating and complex systems of support we have created, which unfortunately and unintentionally often add to a person’s emotional distress. We follow them on their personal journeys and witness them becoming “angry” and “self-sabotaging” in their response to the help offered by the overwrought and well-meaning staff.
The audience, moving around the warehouse space in tandem with the captivating players and their multi-talented buskers, are asked to consider the experience and emotions of both parties; services and customers. How can we change the system? Do we even want to? Whilst pondering this question we are offered a deeply personal and revealing insight into the protagonists’ histories. Later, with food we sit in small groups and discuss our thoughts and what needs to change. Absolutely fabulous!
Everyone should see this – the public, professionals, politicians, practitioners already in the homeless field. Because we all need to understand why some people become homeless and the role psychological trauma plays in this modern-day scandal.
Without spoiling the plot let me just say having worked in the sector for 25 years plus and being familiar with the impact of psychological trauma, I was surprised at the impact “In Plain Sight” had on me. I loved it, couldn’t stop thinking about it. Well done to the writers, actors and funders; B arts and Rideout, VOICES team, volunteers who shared lived experiences and The National Lottery Community Fund. We want more!”
Claire Ritchie, Director, No One Left Out
We are currently in discussion with B arts and Voices about future possible iterations of this work, both during and post Covid 19.
Photos: Natalie Willatt