Cardboard Citizens: Bystanders – Summerhall, Edinburgh

Writer: Cardboard Citizens

Reviewer: Tom Ralphs

This is a play that leaves you with many different emotions. It’s a play that you’re glad to have seen, because it’s an excellent piece of theatre, but that you also wish had never had to be written. Based around the true stories of the lives and deaths of homeless people, it’s a play that will make you incredibly sad at the tragedy of lives lost and equally as angry at the arrogance and self-justification of some of the people responsible for their deaths. This is must see theatre with a message you have to take away with you.

From the stag do that thinks it’s funny to give a homeless person a half-finished tattoo that will last longer than the marriage they are preparing for, to the person who sprayed paint over a homeless person outside Tesco simply because they were irritating him and he thought he had the right to, through to the police officer who watched Dirty Dancing while someone died outside their police station on a cold night, it’s both the lack of thought and the conscious thoughts on display that are shocking.

Switching from the perception of the perpetrators to their victims, Cardboard Citizens give the human side of the stories that lie behind the figures and the incidents that grab the headlines. Not all of the stories end with death, but where they don’t, such as the story of an ex-boxer caught in the Windrush scandal, you still get the full sense of lives lost and systems that don’t recognise the needs of the people they’re dealing with.

The only complaints are that the opening tries to be too clever in its explanation of why it’s not verbatim theatre and what it actually is, and the passing round of the names of homeless people that died in London last year, with the instruction to read a name to yourself, takes you away from what you should be watching. That aside, this is political theatre at its best with a powerful message delivered in a way that can’t fail to connect.

Reviewed on 9 August 2019, running from 31 July to 25 August (not 12 or 19) | Image: Contributed


Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Political theatre at its best

The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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