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Edinburgh festival 2017: Big Issue vendors review Cardboard Citizens’ Cathy

Big Issue vendors Danny and Miguel review one of the most talked-about shows in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Cathy – a Cardboard Citizens re-imagination of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home

Our vendors know better than most how lives can change direction in a heartbeat. In Edinburgh this year, the Cardboard Citizens theatre group is running a reimagined update of Ken Loach’s 1966 classic Cathy Come Home. So, we decided to send our people to review it.

Set in London, the play follows Cathy and her daughter Danielle after Cathy’s zero-hour contract fails to provide enough shifts to cover her rent. After being shuffled between emergency and temporary accommodation with the promise of council rehousing, the stability of their lives slowly crumbles. Between scenes, video interviews with people who have experienced similar ordeals are projected on to a collapsing tower block

After the performance, the audience is encouraged to voice their reactions and propose laws that could alleviate some of the social issues presented on stage.

DANIEL sells The Big Issue at Byres Road, Glasgow

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I thought Cathy was brilliant, and it totally resonated with me as I’m homeless right now, although I’m living with family. I’m quite tough to the world but there were a couple of times when I was almost wiping away tears. Obviously Cathy and Danielle were great but I also thought the two supporting actors were brilliant. I liked how Danielle kept knocking bits off the tower blocks – I guess because she was really frustrated and angry.

Although it was a play of characters, there were some parts – especially when Cathy dealt with officialdom – where I could see myself. She was almost representing me and what I’d been through. I remember the same things happening to me, and local authorities moving me around – that sense of going round in circles. When you’re filling in forms, often your circumstances do not fit into their boxes but if you’re doing it online, without ticking a box, it won’t let you proceed.

It’s the same when you’re speaking to officialdom. Not everyone’s the same, so why treat everyone the same? I totally identified with it.

One of the best parts for me was the discussion at the end. Lots of people shouted out suggestions for law changes but for the majority I sat shaking my head. There were many suggestions that just weren’t feasible. People making policy should include those who’ve been through homelessness – it shouldn’t be millionaire MPs but a proper cross-section of society. It was a really eye-opening discussion and it could do something really positive. I liked the suggestion of linking the living wage to rent prices.

The play was a realistic portrayal of the most common way that homelessness happens to people. It showed how important it is for people to see the homeless as people, and not as invisible. Cathy can help people realise that homelessness as a problem has many more facets than you might think.

Miguel sells The Big Issue at Princes Street, Edinburgh

The public don’t know about or understand the problems that are faced by the homeless, and those that have jobs and homes aren’t really interested in finding out about the reality.

There are lots of misconceptions about those on the street, especially surrounding drugs and alcohol, and I think Cathy was more realistic and more understanding. Visually there were lots of aspects I really enjoyed – especially the images projected on to the tower blocks.

I would recommend that everyone watch the play – it’s important that the public can understand what really happens when you are homeless.

Cathy is at the Pleasance Dome as part of Edinburgh Fringe until August 26. Tickets available at pleasance.co.uk

Words: Sophie Monaghan-Coombs | @sophiemc01

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