Home is a Beautiful Word, a contemporary verbatim-theatre play, based on over five hundred interviews with Victorians conducted by playwright and renown journalist Joel Bernbaum. It certainly gave me food for thought as it reflected on a very pressing issue. In his interview to CBC Radio, Joel Bernbaum said that art can help us understand ourselves and the world around us. He is absolutely right. What this play did to me was made me open my eyes and realize that no matter how diverse our community is, we still have some things to work on together. Also, ignoring certain issues, such as homelessness and poverty, will not make them disappear.
In preparations for this play, Bernbaum took interviews with over half of thousand people, from average neighborhood homeowners to inhabitants of shelters, drop centers, senior citizens homes, the students of middle and high schools, etc. Nevertheless, there were only five actors representing the ideas of such diverse public. I must say that they brilliantly performed it. They were dressed in neutral, mild colored cloths, representing middle class, which made the audience feel into the action and have the impression of talking with the actors eye to eye. Every one of the actors spoke including all the pauses, hesitations and intonations, and it took down the barrier between the audience and the actors, which is very important for verbatim theatre.
There was one moment, when the actors stood all together facing the audience and spoke in turn about what they did for homeless people, and then the next moment they all spoke together “But there was something in their [homeless people’s] eyes". It was very intense and inspiring. It showed me how strong we are when we unite, and how our voice sounds both literally and figuratively stronger and more reassuring as we speak together as a whole. The thought of how people from different social classes find the same subject worrying and needing their attention restores my faith in humanity.
I also liked the moment when all five of actors stood on the spinning platform. Every one of them introduced himself and expressed his own idea about the homeless. “I have only three words: Get A Job!”, “I was in the navy and saw third world countries, but they are not as lucky as we are”, “I wouldn’t invite those people to my house, although it is quite big”, “I give them money, and maybe it’s not such a good thing, but if that’s what you need, here you go”, These guys don’t have any target in their life”, “If everyone looked at their own family, there wouldn’t be so many homeless people”. The ideas they represented could belong to different people Joel Bernbaum had interviewed, and every member of the audience could feel something similar. Representing the point from different angles is very important in verbatim theatre, as it helps to show all the depth and the diverse background of the issue.
So, of course, the general atmosphere played a significant effect. Mild lighting, no high-technology multimedia decorations, the actors’ appearances and customs: everything was kept plain and simple. I believe, it was done in order to draw attention to the actors’ dialogue rather than to the decorations. There were enough visual effects as it is. Actors’ gestures and mimics, their movements around the stage, the look on their faces and the monochrome prints of Victoria’s landmarks and people’s portraits all were very significant. It was enough to make the audience carefully listen and take every actor’s word close to their heart.