Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Help by Carboard Citizens

On Tuesday 14th October, Cardboard Citizens performed The Help in St Mary's Theatre. Cardboard Citizens are a professional company that involve homeless or ex-homeless people. They are unique as they are the only homeless professional theatre company in the UK. The companies speciality is forum theatre and they perform mainly to hostels and day-centres.

I have never experienced Forum Theatre before so I did not know what to expect. As I walked into the theatre they were already on stage observing the audience coming in. I must say that this made me feel a little uncomfortable as I felt I did not want to do anything different to attract attention to myself just in case one of actors started to interact with me. The set was simple (cardboard boxes) but effective as they had many scenes with different locations. Once most of the audience were in their seats The Joker told us that we should clap to anyone who was late. This was what I feared and thank goodness I was not late! This simple exercise actually gave the audience a warm-up and I felt more ready to watch the production.

The production consisted of three adapted and true stories that set up a dilemma. Throughout the three stories the joker helped to link and multi-role in scenes. I think that the joker was vital as she gave the stories clarity and created a smooth transition between scenes. At one point Rob took the role of story telling his own story by the other members of the cast replicating him by his cloths. So, his cloths became a puppet of him. I really enjoyed this moment as the rest of the cast were working the puppet and I was able to see the character telling his own story. However, I felt that when the two social workers were restraining the puppet it felt like the moment had gone as the puppet was motionless. And I stopped using my imagination because of this. For me, I would have liked Rob to step in earlier and become himself again.

Throughout the piece there was a lot of puppetry and I thought that all performers on stage worked very well with them which made me enjoy watching them. However, the only puppet I did not enjoy as much was the puppet that represented Lee. I think that as the puppet was a ken doll and it was so different to the other puppets, I felt it did not work as well.

The overall performance was touching and creative but at places I felt the acting was slightly amateurish, this may have partly been down to first night nerves. After the performance, the forum began. I really enjoyed the audience getting involved with the dilemma on stage as it gave the performers a chance to improvise and the audience to learn. Although the company were aiming the message to an audience in hostels and youth centres, as students we still learnt something, that hostels are not free and I think expensive. The Joker had to end the forum but I really wanted to go on for so much longer and forum the other two stories! I have never experienced forum theatre before but I really enjoyed being part of an audience for the cardboard citizens forum theatre.

I recommend looking at their website as it has a lot more information on the company and future events.

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