By John Watts
On the first day of rehearsals I arrived early, walked through the foyer, met the producers and managers, was shown around the club room and out onto the set. It then hit me, I’m in a play at the Young Vic. Participating, contributing, acting, performing and I don’t give a flying hoot what I’m actually doing, all I know is that I’m in a theatrical production at the Young Vic!
Ten weeks have flown past since I attended a taster workshop aimed at helping the homeless and marginalised into theatre and we began developing our production, The Sound of Yellow. Inspired by the Young Vic’s production the Valley of Astonishment, the play is an exploration of synaesthesia; where your senses crossover and you start seeing smells, hearing colours and how memories of past events are shaped by our emotional responses.
Rehearsals went really well and lying on the floor in the tent with the other performers I really felt a growing sense of being a company, if that is the right word, maybe community would be better. It was all starting to gel and it felt wonderful.
After great opening shows I think the success was getting to some people’s heads. Would you believe it but one of the other actors came up during warm up and said directly to me that I should not play about with the script, because she was finding it hard to get into character. Well, knock me down with a BAFTA. I was furious until I saw the faces of all the others, all desperately trying to stay in ‘character’ and vainly attempting not to laugh.
With the final curtain call a growing realisation dawned for all of us at what we had accomplished. We were such comrades that there is going to be a Sound of Yellow Facebook group. We are asked to consider the Young Vic as home, which may not be such a good idea as we are still experiencing various degrees of the spectre of homelessness.
So what did we get out of it, well a hell of a lot! From new friendships to a huge learning curve about the practical art of theatre and what it can achieve. I have my own doubts about art as therapy, but what it can be is a mirror to one’s own humanity and that of others. For this reason alone there should be more projects like this, their value to the participants is immeasurable however much the audience gets out of it. So, ‘the Smell of Yellow’, the sequel, anyone?
A big thank you to all the organisations involved in the creation of the Sound of Yellow and please give them all a great big hug from me.
John has recently completed the Big Issue online journalism training and has just started volunteering for Poached Creative. To read more articles by John and other past trainees visit Poached Creative’s blog