Big Issue vendor Clive is once again taking on a starring role at the theatre where he sells the magazine – and this time he’ll be joined by his dog Geezer.
Clive sells The Big Issue magazine outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth, but for him it is not merely another pitch – it’s also where he shows off his acting skills.
The 56-year-old featured in the theatre company’s production of Worlds Like Kites last November, telling personal tales pulled from his darkest times to audiences at The Clipper, a former pub turned community space.
He will be performing again this week in CITIZEN at the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Drum Theatre, this time creating a “living, breathing portrait” of the coastal city.
Clive will tell three stories from his past in the show, including: receiving survival resources from a former soldier while rough sleeping in freezing conditions, selling The Big Issue and two elderly customers who helped him before finishing on a free lift from a bus driver.
And Geezer will even be joining him on stage for a short walk-on cameo too.
“Geezer’s been really good – he had to be tested last week on the stage area as they tested the bright lights and other stuff and Geezer passed the test with flying colours,” said Clive, who has managed to beat the booze and has now also been diagnosed as bipolar, allowing him to manage the condition.
“He’s been working on the streets with me since he was 12 weeks old and he’s a tough dog, a proper Big Issue dog, he can take anything.”
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
The Big Issue vendor had been struggling to bury his alcohol and mental health demons before he was inspired after receiving a ticket to watch the Theatre Royal production of In My Dreams I Dream I’m Dreaming in July 2016.
Since then, he has been taking part in the Theatre Royal Plymouth People’s Company Project X, taking on bespoke training sessions designed to help people like Clive pick up skills that are transferrable into everyday life.
Now Clive is ready to take his work a step forward – audiences were 20 people at a time for The Clipper show but will rise to 150 for the four CITIZEN shows.
“It’s a massive step-up for me. The scale is immense,” said Clive. “From humble beginnings at the Our Space programme at the theatre I’ve got stronger and stronger.
“It’s a big thing for the theatre, it’s big for me and big for The Big Issue. There’s a lot resting on my shoulders because I’m representing The Big Issue, representing the homeless and representing people on the outside of society.
“When I do these things, I want to give a performance that is good enough for other people who are on the streets to have a way to follow and find a path for themselves to build a future.”
CITIZEN director Lucy Hirst insists that her cast of local actors – including Clive – will tell the tale of Plymouth as it stands today.
“One of the challenges has been that there has been so much to say,” she said.” For instance, with someone like Clive, you could make a 72-hour play of his life and never be bored, so we’ve had to distil people’s stories into precise moments.
“It’s about finding the connections between them and just talking about their experiences of what it’s like to be a citizen in Plymouth.”
CITIZEN’s run from Thursday July 4-Saturday July 6. Tickets are available at www.theatreroyal.com or on 01752 267222.