Spotlites, Edinburgh

Unseen is a play about homelessness, and it’s clearly been meticulously researched. Holly (Ashley McLean, who also wrote and directed the piece) is homeless after losing her job and falling out with her friends; Maria (Lara Fabiani) is an old acquaintance, whose world-view is challenged by a jolt of recognition: someone she actually knows is huddled under a sleeping bag in the street. This makes her question her own security, as well as her attitude to the rough sleepers she passes every day.

Maria is ‘us’; she’s the filter for the audience.Holly is ‘them’, the nameless, ignored men and women, whose shattered lives should shame us all. What sort of a society is this, where the safety net is so full of holes? We live in the world’s sixth richest country; how can this be acceptable?

The issues are well articulated here. Holly is a believable character with credible responses to the situation she finds herself in. Maria’s sense of unease, her feelings of guilt, sympathy and fascination, are conveyed with conviction. If there’s a problem, it’s with the narrative drive. Sometimes it all feels a little too much like a lecture; the same ideas could be conveyed with a lighter touch, perhaps? And I’d like to learn more about Maria and to see how their friendship develops – and the complications their unequal positions might create. I’d like a stronger character arc, I suppose, to really draw me in to the girls’ stories.

But, all in all, this is a very worthy piece, which certainly wears its heart on its sleeve.

3 stars

Susan Singfield

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