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Human Stories of Homelessness

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What are the human stories around homelessness, how do you break the stigma around it and what causes people to lose the security of a roof over their head in the first place? These are some of the questions being posed during the first Creative Matters season of 2019.

Performances, films, exhibitions, workshops and events will examine these topical issues creatively within a safe space.

The key themes include looking at the social issues that contribute to homelessness as well as the challenges around accessing support.

The season will feature a brand new play Street Life which explores the reality of life for rough sleepers in Norfolk.

The production team has worked with local people who are experiencing homelessness and the organisations who support them to gather real-life stories.

These have then been woven together into the play by renowned Norfolk playwright James McDermott who is already well-known for his work including Rubber Ring, the story of a young gay man from North Norfolk, which has been performed around the country.

Casting is currently under way with rehearsals due to begin at the end of January before the play premieres at Stage Two on February 27-28.

James said: “I was drawn to writing about homelessness because I always want to write about things I don’t understand. I can’t understand why homelessness exists in this country. Whatever we’re told by politicians and media, the UK is a very rich country in which so much money is wasted on sports star salaries, bankers’ bonuses or opening more chain shops. As this is the case, the fact we seemingly can’t afford to house everybody baffles me.

“I also wanted to write this play to help give a voice to those under-represented homeless people so audiences can better understand and reassess how they perceive homelessness.”

Street Life is just one part of the season of the latest Creative Matters season which aims to explore topical issues creatively in a safe space. Sponsored by Broadland Housing Group, the homelessness season will see Norwich Theatre Royal work with a range of community partners, health and support organisations, artists and arts organisations which also includes YMCA Norwich and St Martin’s Housing.

Also being performed is the play What Goes On In Front Of Closed Doors which enjoyed a critically-acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The solo show, which is performed on Friday February 15, tells the story of Molly who loses her home and faces the challenge of not knowing where to go, how to get back on her feet and deal with danger.

Taking on the role is the show’s co-creator Emma Bentley. She trained at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and has been a member of the Soho Theatre Young Company since 2015. Her debut solo show, To She Or Not To She, which she wrote and starred in, won critical acclaim and also got the Special Commendation for Solo Performance from the National Student Drama Festival.

Meanwhile Friday February 8 will see author Kerry Hudson In Conversation. Her book Lowborn will be published in May 2019 and sees her revisit her childhood in some of Britain’s most deprived towns. Always on the move with her single mother, she attended nine primary schools and five secondary schools living in bed-and-breakfasts and council flats.

Twenty years later, her life is unrecognisable as a prizewinning novelist who has travelled the world. Although she has a secure home and a loving partner, she still finds herself looking over her shoulder caught between two worlds.

She will share her experiences from the book which saw her revisiting those places as she tries to discover what being poor in Britain means and what has changed over the last 20 years.

In addition, Tuesday 19 February will see a screening of the film A Street Cat Named Bob which is certificate 12A. Based on the best-selling book, Luke Treadaway (Unbroken, Clash of the Titans) plays young homeless busker James Bowen who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a stray ginger cat Tom which ends up changing his life.

Throughout the month, there will also be an exhibition of paintings by Norwich University of the Arts graduate Devin Smith. She crafted a series of portraits of homeless people from the city in order to bring to life the humanity of people who can often be forgotten. The exhibition will be on display in the Theatre Royal, Playhouse and Stage Two across the season.

Michael Newey, chief executive of Broadland Housing Group, said: “We are delighted to be able to sponsor this innovative programme with Norwich Theatre Royal highlighting the sadly increasing numbers of homeless in our region.  Broadland is a passionate supporter in the fight to end homelessness and is excited to be working with the Theatre. We hope that the month-long programme will help tackle the sadly growing issue of homelessness in our region by engaging audiences in a new way”

Sam Patel, Norwich Theatre Royal community participation manager, added: “February’s season will reveal stories as to how people come to be homeless. With homelessness drastically increasing over the last few years, we hope to highlight the vulnerability we all potentially face with a sudden change in circumstance that can change the course of someone’s life. ”

For further information about the season and to book, log onto ntr.org.uk/CreativeMatters