Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Unseen Dramaturgy: Ashley McLean @ Edfringe 2016

Spotlites (Venue 278)
Aug 4-28 7.35pm

Holly feels outcast and alone, lost among the unseen homeless.  The normal world is oblivious, can she regain hope?

The story is based on the life of a young homeless woman called Holly.  She has a fall out with her manager which results in her losing her job, eventually forcing her to take to the streets after she runs out of money and has nowhere else to go.

She sees an old acquaintance walking by her on the street, Maria; and the pair rapidly become major parts of each other’s lives.

This play explores a widespread social crisis that’s often overlooked and normalised by society.  Holly is not stereotypical of someone who would fall into homelessness, which amplifies the understanding of the vast number of people who unfortunately fall subject to this particular issue.

It has been reported that many people in the UK are just two pay packets away from homelessness.  This play aims to heighten people’s awareness of the lack of job security  and affordable housing in Britain today, which inevitably forces many people to resort to a life of homelessness.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The inspiration for this performance was based on bumping into an old work colleague who was made homeless after being involved in an accident, and he was not receiving enough benefits to support himself.  I found this really shocking and upsetting as he'd been working since he left school at 16.  His experience highlighted to me how vulnerable we are in our society, and how easy it is to find yourself with nothing.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
The team is a friend from college and myself.  I thought my friend was perfectly suited for the role, as the character reminds me of her in many ways.  Not only is she professional and a very capable actress, she is also honest and innovative - helping immensely with editing the script and directing the piece.  We also got a huge amount of help from a director friend, Wendy Turner, who watched rehearsals and gave us great input. 

How did you become interested in making performance?
Since graduating from drama school in 2012, it has been a constant struggle to obtain work as an actor.  The idea for writing Unseen came to me about a year ago and I decided to make my goal Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016.  It's the first time for me writing and producing my own show - but I have learnt a huge amount from the experience.  The subject of the play is homelessness.  It is a topic that is very close to my heart.  Living in a city, we see homeless people daily and I feel it's become normalised.  Homelessness is a huge and very real problem which needs to be recognised and urgently addressed.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
As an actor, yes I would say the process was typical.  I did a lot of research on homelessness.  I visited homeless shelters, spoke with as many people as I could including my local MP in order to understand what initiatives Councils have to address homelessness.  This allowed me to create my character who found herself left with no choices, no support and no help apart from what the shelters in the city could provide.   

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Firstly, I hope the audience will enjoy the play.  Secondly, I hope it will raise awareness of the problem that homelessness has become in our society.  I have tried to show both sides of the situation, the onlooker bypasser who most of us are and how that makes us feel, and the person who's sitting on the pavement.  This is intended to be a thought provoking piece.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I wanted to show the dichotomy of these two young women.  One is working, fresh and energetic living a very typical life of a woman in her mid-20s.  The other is destitute, alone and vulnerable.  The sad reality is they know eachother from the past.  As the play unfolds, the audience realises not only the past relationship but where they have found themselves in a matter of months from their first meeting.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
When I wrote the play, I wanted a totally bare, truthful and raw piece about a homeless girl who had nothing except her wavering self belief.  During the process, I found the powerful content took on a life of its own and the writing just seemed to flow.

“Unseen” is an intimate newly written play by Ashley McLean; who is also directing, producing and performing in this production.

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