A unique blend of poetry, rap, comedy and social commentary, the show allowed McGarvey to tell the story of a working-class boy, not unlike himself, trying to “cross the ravine” into the world of his middle-class university-educated girlfriend. Interspersed with his own polemic challenges, the new commentator of our time examines the possibility of social mobility (a term he notes an immediate dislike for) when you live in a place of extreme poverty.
His argument that poverty is complex is one that we at The Big Issue know all too well. Every day we uncover new challenges in our mission to give a hand up. It felt right to ask one of our vendors, in the world of which McGarvey writes, to go along and review.
We took vendor Floare Cirpaci, 27, to give us her unique take on Poverty Safari Live. Arriving from Romania just two years ago she has her own experience of “crossing the ravine”.
“I can’t speak for everyone in Romania but it was a bad place for me to raise a family, you don’t have a lot of opportunity to grow there,” she said.
With a pitch outside the Edinburgh Book Festival this summer, Floare has seen for herself the gaps in wealth within the city.
“It can be difficult in Edinburgh to be around so many wealthy people,” she said. “But I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’m doing now without being here.
“There’s a lot of poor people in Scotland too. But it’s better here and people have the chance to change their life if they want to.”
Poverty Safari Live is littered with side notes. McGarvey addresses the crowd and admits his own shortfalls, his own battle with learning the ropes of feminism, privilege and all that comes with the growing minefield of “what is OK to say”. But with humour and humility, he challenges us all to admit our own preconceptions in a somewhat uncomfortable hour.
I’ve changed what I can and I’m still learning.
“I liked the rapping,” Floare said. And while some of the more Scottish specific nuances may have been lost on her (the show opens with a trigger warning for the working class that the bar sells juice with bits and a joke about the dental nightmare of Wham bars), she understood the complex conflict of self that comes with finding a way out of poverty that Poverty Safari confronts.
“I know things are still bad at home, which is difficult sometimes. But I’m trying to improve my life for me and my kids.”
Floare’s enjoyment of the show came from her first-hand experience and personal understanding of some of the issues that McGarvey has honestly laid bare, but she recognises that she too has found a way to improve her circumstances.
“I can’t change everything. But I’ve got a job here on my pitch and I like it. I’ve changed what I can and I’m still learning.”
Poverty Safari Live is at The Stand’s New Town Theatre for the Edinburgh Fringe until August 26. Head here for tickets