24 March 2015

Homelessness issues explored in new play by the Benchmark Theatre Company

Based on the real experiences of residents of YMCA St Paul’s Group, ‘Try it for a Weekend’ is a piece of verbatim theatre exploring the issue of homelessness.

The play will be performed by the Benchmark Theatre Company at YMCA Surbiton on Thursday 26th March at 7.30pm. Entry is free, with a £3 suggested donation.

Based on interviews with YMCA LSW residents

Benchmark-Try-it-for-a-weekendClare Fry, Drama Facilitator at YMCA St Paul’s Group and co-founder of the Benchmark Theatre Company, explains how the play was created. She said:

Drama student and playwright Amber Daly came to the YMCA to ask if she could speak to residents for a play she was writing. After a short conversation it was clear that this would be a fantastic collaboration for Benchmark.

Many people who have experienced homelessness feel they have no voice, that no one listens and that their stories are often told for them by the media or by politicians. These are very often not fair representations and sometimes vilified.

Verbatim theatre, which is type of theatre where the text is generated from interviews with ‘real life’ people, gives a platform for people’s voices. We hope this play highlights some of the issues of homelessness”.

A political play

Michael Tesfaye, a member of the Benchmark Theatre Company who is living in the hostel at YMCA Wimbledon, said:


In the play, I am just a channel for someone else’s experience. But obviously, being homeless myself, I can also relate on a personal level to the issues in the play. Sometimes, other people manage to express perfectly what you feel, but cannot express yourself.

The play is about the traumas and difficulties about being homeless. However, it’s also political – it’s about how homeless people are often dehumanized and simply reduced to a number. It shows the detachment between the people and the government”.

Kingston Connections in June

Earlier this month, the Benchmark Theatre Company previewed an excerpt from the new play at the Sleep Easy event in Kingston, where local residents slept out for one night to raise awareness about homelessness issues in the local community. Previously, Benchmark Theatre Company has also collaborated with Year 10 drama students at Southborough High School in Surbiton on an experimental performance dealing with issues of loss.

Benchmark will be performing at this year’s Kingston Connections Festival of Stories in June and International Youth Arts Festival (IYAF) in July.

About the Benchmark Theatre Company

Benchmark Theatre Company comprises of residents, staff and volunteers from YMCA St Paul’s Group. The company was founded three years ago by Clare Fry and Lucy Taylor, as a result of the successful promenade style theatre piece ‘Homelessness’; a project which ran in collaboration the Page to Stage Theatre Company.

Benchmark Theatre aims to make quality, relevant and challenging performances that convey a message, include our community and entertain.