Catching Lives’s staff member Becky Edwards was invited along to watch and review a new play by Cardboard Citizens entitled Benefit. Here is her review-
Benefits, written by Sarah Wood, is a dark-humoured and thought provoking take on the benefit system focusing on three interlinked stories that depict the struggles and woes of those who have fallen foul of the state’s welfare reforms.It demonstrates a harsh reality of life on benefits that is somewhat different from the ugly distortions betrayed by the media. The four actors are from the Cardboard Citizens, the UK’s only homeless professional theatre company.
The cast challenge society’s institutionalised view that all those who claim benefits are lazy scroungers who are part of a dependency culture and portrays a degrading and humiliating side of the system. It is interesting to see this take on the system as there is a stigma pervasive across society that has resulted in a‘them and us’ mentality – claimants and non-claimant.
After watching the play the audience is invited to participate in forum theatre and as this was my first experience I was unsure of what to expect. It is an interactive and solution-focused form of theatre that promotes audience participation. The audience shouts “STOP” at the point where they perceive that a character is being oppressed by someone or some societal force.
At this point the member of audience is welcomed to the stage to redirect the actors of an alternative narrative. The idea is that the audience witnesses a moment of empowerment and change so that the protagonist wins! Through debating and establishing a group ethos the audience and the actors explore specific political and social issues and challenge established perceptions.I would thoroughly recommend going along to see it for yourself to form your own conclusions on such a hotly debated topic.
It is showing at the Gulbenkian Theatre (at the University of Kent) on the following days:
Thurs 21st May 19:30pm
Fri 22nd May 19:30pm
For more information see- http://cardboardcitizens.org.uk/