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Review: Street at Chippen St Theatre

By Adam Stepfner

Street written and directed by Liviu Monsted, presented the hardships of homelessness on stage, through the lens of those on the streets and off. The play begins with Foster and Miriam, two people living on the streets when Christian and Fay enter the story, as "regular" people trying to broaden their views on the world by experiencing homelessness.

Whilst a good premise, unfortunately, Monsted's writing fails to portray a realistic and well-rounded experience of homelessness, only honing in on one pair's struggles with the issue. The piece itself has some issues structurall ultimately leading to the show show making little sense with jumping scenes transitioned with blackouts consistently. It felt quite messy. Alternatively re-structuring the show could make for a more clear and engaging portrayal of the issue. The piece unfortunately also lacks nuance, within it's characters and dialogue, making what should have been characters with great complexity appear overly stereotypical. Monsted also attempts to incorporate comedy into the piece, which considering the content feels incredibly out of place for what the work is trying to accomplish. The writing itself does have potential, although I feel the portrayal of homelessness is too unrealistic in this iteration of the play. Monsted also having directed the piece, seems to struggle to find clarity with the world he's trying to create. The blocking seems messy and simply poorly thought out. The actors aimlessly walk about at times amongst scenes with little to no dialogue while actors sit on stage doing almost nothing, which was disengaging as an audience member. Instead, the show could have focused on the clarity of the dialogue and make that the star, opposed to attempting interesting visuals which sadly were a miss.

The set was lacking, using about a 3m x 4m rectangle of space within the theatre it was being performed in, which personally I felt was a missed opportunity as it really could have been an incredible visionary experience for audiences. John Murrell's set was simple but effective, a wall covered in graffiti with a street light and some rubbish on the floor. Although giving the right effect, again the size was an issue, with tonnes of empty space that could have been so well utilised.

Stuart Oliver, Lucy Hadfield, Talia Chenaye and Benn Spillane made up the 4 main characters on stage and whilst all four should be commended for bringing these important discussions to the stage, ultimately the performances were underwhelming as often intentions were unclear or scenes were overacted, allowing the performance to feel too theatrical at times. Honing back on these characters to offer a more subtle portrayal likely would have made the characters more real and more relatable for audiences.

Most convincing was Lucy Hadfield as Miriam, portraying a young woman clearly forced into homelessness. Although at times quite jarring, her performance felt the most passionate.

Perhaps most disappointing was that all four characters seem to have incomplete journeys, either moving in one direction then seeming as though the story had left them behind, or circling back and essentially going nowhere. We never see Miriam or Foster’s lives change, nor do learn what Christian and Fay had discovered from their “experiment.” This was extremely unfortunate as I would’ve loved to have seen the characters develop further and seen how this progressed the plot.

Overall "Street" has good intentions, and raises issues about a topic that needs and deserves attention, although unfortunately, it doesn't hit the mark as a well rounded theatrical performance. With each element not quite 100%, the show never really portrays homelessness in a tasteful and informative matter. However, sometimes theatre is about more than just what you see on stage - Mon Sans Productions, promise to donate 10% of box office earnings to "Youth Off The Streets", which is a fantastic cause and I highly commend the company for its generosity and stance in raising awareness.

Image Credit: Abe Bastoli

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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