Following the huge success of their previous collaboration Parade the Musical at the Hope Mill Theatre, Laura Lindsay brings Parallel – a thought-provoking piece of theatre that gives a genuine insight into homelessness.
Touring the North of England this Autumn, it is an innovative production with an all-female cast, where at the start of the production a dice is rolled to decide which actor plays which part. As an incredibly pertinent piece of theatre, it highlights the important issues in society regarding homelessness.
Anna is stranded. Beth came for a think. C just wants some kip. Three women meet by chance late at night. None of them really want to be there, yet none of them leave. It is a rare moment of stillness in a hectic modern world, bringing both solace and discomfort. With only loose change, some booze and a dodgy carrot at their disposal, will any of them find their way home?
I spoke to writer Laura Lindsay, who not only wrote the piece, but plays one of the characters in the production.
Laura’s initial inspiration stemmed from her interest in the play Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett. “I like the play, but I find that because it is so literary, whilst I don’t think the play itself is inaccessible, the tone around it is,” she said. “The theatre I want to make is accessible theatre that everyone can experience. So I essentially wanted to write a modern-day version of Waiting For Godot.
One of the things that influenced me was that the Beckett estate never used to allow women to perform it – which I thought was outrageous. It is about human beings and a representation of the world around us, and so much of theatre is defaulted to a gender role. So I set out to write a piece of theatre that was all women, but not particular to women.”
Whilst not having directly experienced homelessness herself, Laura found herself affected by it, inspiring her to write the play. She explained: “The homelessness issue came in because I was just very aware that the presence on the street is just growing and growing. I was in a play in London, in a five-star hotel that was like an immersive one-on-one play, and my walk from the tube to the hotel was about 50 yards and I would walk past 3 homeless people on the way. It just really struck me that I was going into a five-star hotel that charge £18,000 a night for their penthouse suite, and I just thought – I want to write something about that inequality.”
After witnessing what was happening around her, Laura decided to investigate further into the lives of these people who were struggling. This led her on to meeting various homeless charities such as Crisis, the national charity for homeless people. She would speak to the staff and members at the charity, but then would also read the script to them for feedback and advice. “It was really valuable that they were part of the creative process, to make sure it wasn’t patronising or a misconception,” she told me.
Laura also worked with Harrogate Homeless Project; “I had a range of interviews with people and I found it all really infused my writing, without me having to force it in. I was determined that although it is an issue based play, I wanted it to work as a drama, but also have a social message and address social issues.”
“Most people’s definition of homeless is street homeless, but I think that was one of the important things that I found in the research. That so much of homelessness and people not having something they can call home is hidden. When people are sofa surfing or staying with friends temporarily, they never have anywhere that is solid. So much of people’s personal wellbeing is having a place of sanctuary, a place for yourself surrounded by things that make you happy. “
Covering such a sensitive topic is a challenge in itself, but the real obstacle is the fact the three women will be switching roles every night. “The dice roll is useful to represent that part of chance in the outcome of someone’s life,” Laura said. “Arguably the three characters are the same characters just under different circumstances. So I wanted to play with that idea of them being different aspects of the same person, and show the universality of our experiences.”
It is an interesting concept that is appearing more and more in theatre these days, as it gives each performance a breath of fresh air, making it seem much more raw and real. “When you’re dealing with such an important subject matter, my worry is to present it in a patronising way, I think by having the dice rolled, it is acknowledging that we are simply actors playing a role, ” Laura added.
The Hope Mill Theatre is ideal for a performance so powerful, its high ceilings and industrial backdrop really suits the integrity of the production. Laura said: “I think as an audience member I get so much more from it when I can see the sweat on an actor’s brow, and be up close to them. I think that is a much more intimate and profound experience – I love just seeing life on stage close up.”
Creating this fringe-style of theatre is always financially challenging. With a lack of funding, they are making it work with the help of Harrogate Theatre Company, the theatres they are touring to, and their own money. The production have set up a kickstarter campaign in hopes that people will believe in their project as much as they do. “It’s difficult, because when you are someone who is creative and artistic, you don’t want to be held back by the practicals of the finances, but ultimately you can’t put something on unless you have the money to do it.”
PARALLEL NORTHERN TOUR – Autumn 2016
1-5 November – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
9 November – Arc, Stockton
11 November – Derby Theatre
17-19 November – Lincoln Drill Hall
24 November – Square Chapel, Halifax