This heartbreaking and yet all too true story is compelling to listen to unfold – yet somehow comes across as though it would work better performed in a theatre.
Written by Jo Emery in association with Crisis, this one man show charts the story of “Man” from his rise as a property developer to becoming homeless is certainly heartbreaking to hear unfold – but being told in the middle of the street can mean that it lacks the intimacy and focus that being performed live in a theatre would give it.
This being said, in this filmed version in which Emery uses herself to help set up the story by playing a playwright looking to write a play about homelessness offers a nice opening to this story that is filled with sorrow and grief, while the street setting also offers the audience a sense of the reality of what those sleeping rough every day face.
The script is filled with depth and really explores issues such as poverty and grief and its effects – but because it is so clearly written for the stage some lines can feel slightly stilted and awkward in this filmed version. This does not meant that this undermines the importance of the story being told – it can in some places highlight the importance of compassion, particularly when the “Man” describes the abuse he gets or the lack of compassion or willingness to help from the council – it is all very vivid and shocking with a clear amount of research that has gone into ensuring authenticity into the story.
Directed by Ian Hylands, it is an understated film that relies a lot on close up shots and emotional music by Shaun Britton to enhance further certain aspects to the story that help to create an emotional response from the audience. This being said, some of the editing can be a little bit sharp and I was quite surprised at the quality of the subtitles which are extremely confusing to anyone who relies on them.
But it has to be said that Haydn Davis’s performance as the “Man” is warm and engaging throughout. You get a real sense of this character’s intelligence, love of his family but also how completely lost he has become – it is a performance that really gains the audience’s attention and sympathy. He captures the many different emotional aspects to this character with great ease and is completely watchable from start to finish.
There is certainly no denying the importance of Rough Sleeper in reminding us of how easy it is to end up in a similar situation and just how broken the system is. But it feels as though it keeps the audience at a distance which would be different if we were sitting in a theatre experiencing it live and feeling as though he was telling us his story directly which doesn’t quite come across in this film.
By Emma Clarendon
Rough Sleeper is available to watch via The Actors Centre until the 19th September.