Femi Keeling’s new play, Rising, part of Cardboard Citizens Theatre Company’s outreach programme working with people affected by homelessness, has finished its tour of hostels, prisons, day centres, refuges, and youth centres across London. A livestream performance is still available to view online here.
Rising explores many of the challenges facing people released from prison, including applying for Universal Credit, the difficult choices they may have to make as a result, and the shocking ease with which someone may face homelessness. The play’s lead character, Terrence, has just been released after a short prison sentence and wants to change his life. With support, Terrence has the opportunity to take control and turn things around, but demons from his past, bad company, and a string of poor decisions instead push Terrence to the edge.
After watching the play, the audience have the chance to voice their opinion and offer ideas that might change the course of the characters’ lives, and to watch as the story is rewritten in front of their eyes. The Forum theatre element empowers the audience to change the outcome, meaning that every show is a unique experience.
The cast, which includes Cardboard Citizens’ Member actors with experience of homelessness, comprises of Shona Babayemi, Carrie Rock, Greg Shewring and Andre Skeete.
Stuart Mullins, Director of Rising and Associate Director of Cardboard Citizens, said, “I felt very excited during the livestream performance and discussion. It’s brilliant to be able to reach beyond the confines of the room to a new audience. Our evening at City Hall gave people an insight to our unique style of theatre. However its main purpose was to present City Hall and the Deputy Mayor James Murray with a compilation of the suggested changes of law and policy with regards ex offenders leaving prison.
“One of the most memorable parts of the evening was when one of our members who sat on the panel discussion, who has lived experience of homelessness and is an ex offender, performed a poem he’d written about his experiences. It was moving and profound and completely unplanned. That’s why we love our members because they constantly surprise us and we are always learning from them.”
Actress Shona Babayemi added, “Being in City Hall, and having collated so many personal accounts, stories and fruitful information during our tour of Rising really made it feel special. The fact that this powerful piece of Forum theatre evolves into Legislative theatre that could possibly change the lives of people, not only in London but nationwide, really resonated with me. This was reflected in the post show discussion, I was surprised at how honest and open it was and that collectively the panel as well as the audience have the same goal of tackling issues of homelessness and flaws within our welfare systems.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the forum as we had some unique and funny approaches. However, the ending statements from the panel were the highlight. We delved into ideas of what society could look like, could be like, immediately and in the future. It didn’t feel like the conversation, the debates had ended. There was an energetic feel of hopefulness which was very warming.”
Rising was performed at London City Hall on 27th November, and was livestreamed online as part of an evening launching the Mayor of London’s Winter Homeless Fundraising Campaign. The livestream can still be viewed online by following this link.