“Let me paint you a picture of a land blighted by inequality…” In 21st Century Britain benefits and government spending is being cut in all areas causing homelessness to rise significantly. Whilst more and more people lose their homes, cases of verbal and physical abuse against people living on the streets has grown. This is a society where the system causes extreme gaps between the poor masses and the rich few. This is a society that demonises those who have fallen through cracks.
Collective Encounters is a Liverpool based arts organisations whose productions are aimed at showcasing the need for social change. Their production Cracked is intended to portray to its audience society’s problems surrounding homelessness, by looking at our flawed system, and the media’s demonization of the victims. The team who have created Cracked are part of Collective Encounters’ transition project, which is comprised of people who have experienced homelessness, alcoholism and substance abuse. This means that previous to Collective Encounters most of the cast had never been to the theatre let alone performed on a stage themselves.
Given Cracked has been created by a community who understand first-hand the issues the piece has an authenticity whilst demonstrating the importance of Collective Encounters’ work. Often the theatre is an expensive outing making it an exclusive experience, but Collective Encounters do not charge for their productions making them completely accessible to all. With the organisation wishing to open the public’s eyes to the unfair nature of Tory Britain it is imperative that their work is open to everyone.
I found this production extremely impressive as it managed to achieve a lot in the short space of an hour. It is highly informative, using sketch scenes that mimic shows like Loose Women and game shows to give astonishing facts and statistics about the rise in homelessness and mental health issues. Cracked highlights the ludicrous nature of the bureaucratic system that prevents those in need of help receiving it by labelling them as ‘intentionally homeless’ and ‘none priority cases’, and shows how individuals are so often dehumanised by our government and left to fall through the cracks of society. It holds a mirror up to its audience demonstrating how we are so often distracted by material gain, celebrities and our own trivial problems that we fail to notice or choose to ignore the people in actual need. The heart-wrenching tales told by the cast, some being real life accounts, are there to remind you that this could happen to anyone and that homelessness is never a choice. Despite all of the pain, anguish and harsh reality you are confronted with in this play, the cast still manage to make the production whimsical and entertaining.
You will most likely as I did come away from this experience with a strong feeling that you need to do more. We all need to do more. We need to try harder to empathise and understand the circumstances of others, rather than assuming that someone has ended up out in their cold due to mistakes they made. We need to take time out of our day to help someone, rather than looking away from the sleeping bag on the street, we need to think about the individual shivering within. Most of all we need to question and fight against the way society is developing. We are not living in a world of equal opportunity, but one with “opportunity for the few” where “many get screwed”. We are living in a world where the poor pay for the crimes of the rich. Where politicians explain to us the necessity of austerity whilst Buckingham Palace gets a makeover. All in all we live in a broken Britain where we are conned by those in charge and the media makes us believe it is the homeless and the refugees to blame. It is all of our responsibility to fix this country and Cracked definitely doesn’t let you shy away from that fact.