views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Home(less) Comforts
Etcetera Theatre
7th August 2017

★★★☆☆

Publicity image for Home(less) Comforts

Photography provided by Three Way Productions

To many, Martin (Paul Bridger) is just another face in a doorway, but he's caught the attention of Alana (Elizabeth Cachia) for some reason. In fact, she's so intrigued by him that she's sought him out to take his picture - whilst it's not the smartest way to befriend someone who is both asleep and not interested in playing nice with anyone, it ends up being the trigger for an unexpected friendship between the pair. Home(less) Comforts is a new piece of writing that serves as a stark warning that most people are just one life event away from homelessness and the reasons for ending up on the streets are rarely as straightforward as people might think.

Given Bridger spent many years developing his last Camden Fringe show, Captive Hearts, it comes as no surprise that Home(less) Comforts is beautifully researched. Some of Martin's comments are designed to shock the audience, but are absolutely grounded in reality - there are many sad truths that usually only become evident from either living as a homeless person or spending time with one. Home(less) Comforts gives some of these truths a much wider platform, which is thoroughly commendable. When trying to relate to someone, too often do we impose our own expectations of how we would react in that scenario and when it comes to homelessness, frequently that approach doesn't work. We're so attached to our own creature comforts it's difficult to understand some people actively choose to stay outside, accustomed to the noise and indeed the lifestyle. It's also shocking the first time you meet a homeless person on wheels, realising that disability doesn't guarantee you shelter in our big society. We're all at risk of becoming Martin.

Whilst the research behind the writing and the characterisation under Al Carretta's direction are absolutely spot on, the storyline doesn't feel as refined as what we've previously seen from Bridger. Alana gives up on her expensive camera far too quickly, given its apparent high value, and the ending doesn't give us the resolutions we feel necessary for either protagonist. Rather than leave us to question and use our own imagination to meaningfully fill in any blanks ourselves, the abruptness of the play's conclusion instead makes it feel very much like only the first half of something. At 45 minutes long, there's certainly scope to flesh out the script and make this a full length drama without the writing becoming unnecessarily lengthy. This is an engaging drama in its current form. However, there is so much obvious potential for Bridger to develop this further and I would dearly love to see him do so.

Lighting and sound are important to getting the tone right and conveying how miserable the weather can be on the streets. Although the sound design is done well, the production suffers from what appears to be a minor technical disaster with the lighting erratic in places. It's a shame, but this opening night hitch doesn't break the theatrical magic, with the two protagonists interesting enough to keep our focus throughout. Bridger makes for a gruff and unapproachable Martin, reluctant to reveal too much about himself yet not entirely willing to let go of the companionship freely offered by Alana. Cachia provides balance, her character full of an earnest curiosity and compassion. Both actors are utterly convincing.

For me, Home(less) Comforts is an exciting preview of what truly deserves to be revisited as a longer production and one that I thoroughly appreciated watching. What we do get to see is acted, written and directed with a respectful awareness of a very real and important problem.

Home(less) Comforts opened on 7th August and runs until 9th August 2017 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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