“Are there no workhouses?”

Centre Point. My agent’s office is in Centre Point, at the top of Charing Cross Road. 2 floors up.

We are collecting for the Centre Point charity this year with Carol. Helping young people get off the streets. They help get young people who are stuck on the streets not just into a room, although they do that too. They get these vulnerable people into a place physically and mentally where they can reconnect with their families and get themselves back on track. We’ve collected a good amount already. People can be generous when they’ve had fun, and the message of our story is wrapped up in taking care of the poor and the destitute “many of whom are in want of common comforts.” There are no more workhouses, but there are plenty of people stuck outside in this cold.

A few nights ago we had some women in the audience from The Big Issue Foundation. They had come back, after we collected for them for the last two years. Most of the shows last year would have a Big Issue vendor in the house. They’d been told not to let on, but they were leaky when questioned by Ebenezer about their Christmas plans. It was lovely to see them back. I said to them “sorry we aren’t collecting for you guys this year,” and they were totally cool with it. “We get it. We just wanted to come back again. It’s good you’re still collecting.”

This show has not been easy to mount this year. It’s only got to the stage where it rolls along as it does now following massive teething problems from building into that empty warehouse space. Water tanks, loos, washing, polishing, platewarming, power, heat, voices, thumbs, staff, shutters, ovens, snow, tables, chairs, carpets, candles, crackers… It’s been a mission. It’ll barely break even I fear. But it’ll pay Jack and Natalie and Anna and Mel and Tristan and Kane and I and it’ll get lots of donations, and it’ll bring ridiculous Christmas fun to all concerned.

Every night Jack and I end up spending time with happy people who enjoyed the madness. It’s a lovely thing to hang out after the show. I usually know most people’s names by then with my weird brain. And every night the bucket fills with generous donations. Tonight an audience member told me that the fact we collect for the homeless just put a button on the show for her. She said it was the moment that made her cry, to realise that we are having all this fun around the issue of have and have not, and then we actively seek to make a difference in the world by collecting. I guess it’s another immersive element. It amazes me how generous people are, because the ticket is way outside my maximum. Although I forget it comes with a meal, and a fine meal too.

This is relatively early mainstream immersive theatre at 7 years old. I guess we were making incomprehensible experiments long before at BAC, some of which took and grew. But this show started in a pub in York after the director worked with The Factory, and it is now playing to audiences who are not regular theatre goers. We wean the audience gently so nobody feels singled out. And it’s so much better for having majority non-theatre audiences. People who think they don’t like theatre enjoy themselves. That us a massive win.

I’m looking forward to hearing the donation figures at the end of the run. It’s so cool to be involved in this show. I feel ridiculously Christmassy already… Good to know that by fannying around in a nightie I’m also helping people turn their life around. It’s what Scrooge has to do. It’s what we can all do. And I’m being paid for this.

Thank God that nowadays the answer to Scrooge’s question is “no”. There are no workhouses. Ugh.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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