If there’s anything which unites Fringe shows, it’s that they have a lot of heart – after all, you have to really believe in something to get a group together, organise a show and talk friends, family and random strangers into coming along.
But Homeless Economics is something special in the realm of the heart. This is a show about homeless guys, real stories performed by the people it happened to. A collaboration between the Auckland City Mission and a small group of dedicated artists, it’s held on ‘home turf’ – the Mission building itself.
Renee Liang talked to Bronwyn Bent about the project.
How did this start?
The group started when myself and Sally Barnett approached Lauren Godsiff, Homeless Worker, and Wilf Holt, Homeless Team Leader, at the Mission in January 2010 with the idea of starting a performance group. I'd visited Cardboard Citizens in the UK a few years ago, which has been running performance programmes for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed since 1991, and since then I had thought that would be a pretty interesting thing to do. Sally had also had an interest in the same since learning about some choirs for homeless people in Australia, and unbeknownst to both of us, Wilf had been looking for someone to start performance programmes through the Mission. From there we met with the Client's Committee, who are a group of people who use the Mission services, and they gave us the green light to go ahead. Mark Scott joined us as a tutor/group member not long after and we've been up and running ever since.
What kind of stories are told?
The stories in the show are a mix of the very personal and the more abstract - so some people are telling us tales of teenage highjinks, others are talking about their family and others are talking about their dreams, whilst others are performing about the trials of trying to get through a system when you don't have the sort of things most of us take for granted, like an address to have things forms sent to.
Is this ‘street theatre’ – for real?
It's not ‘street theatre’ in that it won't be performed on the street, perhaps it's better described as "streetie theatre" if that isn't too cheesy! As we're performing in the Auckland City Mission building so we imagine this will be the first time many of the audience will have stepped through the doors there; we liked the idea of audience members coming onto the ‘home turf’ of the group.
Who’s driving this?
We try to make it a fairly democratic group. For this show, one of the performers has come on board as a producer, and we hope that she'll keep working in this area. In a perfect world it would be great to have all the producers drawn from the group itself, much like all the other smell-of-an-oily-rag co-ops around the place, so part of the job of the more experienced group members is to try and not do everything but get other members to gain more experience by doing these jobs themselves. In terms of the creative content, it's all devised by the group members, and as we get to know each other more as a group, people are starting to contribute more and take more responsibility for the content of the work.
Some people have expressed a strong desire to get to Broadway pretty soon. But on the way there, we're thinking about Short & Sweet Festival.
Wed 2 - Sat 5 March
Auckland Fringe Festival