Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Preview - Homefront at the Union Theatre

WHEN John Kristian ended up homeless in February two years ago he said it was one of the worst experiences of his life.
The 23-year-old had split up with his girlfriend, had run out of money and had run out of sofa hopping options.
He ended up spending three days sleeping rough on the streets where he was scared, hungry and alone.
However, he has turned the experience into a positive one as it inspired him to find out more about those he met sleeping rough and ultimately to share their stories.
The result is a new musical, The Homefront, which he is showcasing at the Union Theatre in Southwark for a four night run this week.
"I was going through a really rough patch and although I could have called my parents, with whom I have a very good relationship, I was too proud to do so," he says.
"I was only on the streets for three nights - which was long enough - but I met some extraordinary people - a real mix including doctors, students, army veterans and some very young people as well as those struggling with drink or drug addictions.
"I realised there were little communities of rough sleepers all over London which I never knew existed. They looked out for each other and I saw at first hand the lengths to which they go to to keep themselves alive.
"They had incredible stories to tell about why they had ended up in their situations - many were completely heartbreaking - and initially it gave me the idea for a novel."
He then spent three weeks going back to visit those who he had met when he had been homeless and taking down their stories.
The novel turned into a play which eventually morphed into a musical although John says it's a mix of the three. But at its heart it is based on the verbatim accounts of what life is like for those who are homeless in London.
The audience follows the fortunes of three such men living in London and sharing their stories of day to day life, seeing the inside of a jail cell for the wrong reasons, facing fears, experiencing tragedy and coming to terms with their fate.
Each of these homeless men are at different stages of their journey, but their stories bring them together, and, in turn, also tear them apart.
"There are three characters on the stage and through them we see the reality of what it's really like out there," says John.
"Yes, it could come across as stereotypical in terms of the stories they tell but they are all real - and for the most part, these people are invisible. And it's a frightening existence."
Happily John is now settled, living in Grove Park and enjoying life again.
"I am very lucky," he says. "I have work and a place to live in an area of South East London that I absolutely love.
"But others that I met on those cold nights are not so fortunate and I want this play to be challenging and make the audience think.
"I'd like to think in the future the run could be extended at another theatre so that more people can see it, because these are stories that need to be told and heard."

The Homefront is on at the Union Theatre, Southwark Street from August 6 until August 9. Tickets cost £15. Visit www.fairgroundtheatre.com or call the box office on 020 7261 9876.

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