When someone stops you in the street and asks for the price of a cup of tea, do you give them money, even if you think it’s going towards the price of the next fix of heroin or crack? Do you ever wonder how they came to be there or how they live? These are some of the questions that occurred to writer Alex Darby, so he went out onto the streets of Oxford, listened to the homeless people he met and wrote a play about it.
Vagrant tells the story of Lara, an undergraduate who, crumbling under the weight of personal trauma and family expectations, abandons her University career during finals to become just another homeless person on the streets of Oxford. Here she meets Ivan and Tracy, young people from a very different background who, unlike Lara, don’t have the option of going home.
The drama skilfully captures the nature of homelessness – the kindness and the chaos. At the heart of the play, three monologues in which each of the main characters tells their personal story create a strong sense that we are listening to the voices of people who normally go unheard.
There are some weaknesses – the discussions between Lara and her sister Isabella about homelessness and social inequality have a slightly stilted student-debate quality, but this is a minor quibble in what is an otherwise well written piece.
The writing is complemented by thoughtful staging, whilst well-observed performances from Barnaby Fishwick (Ivan), Zoe Bullock (Tracy) and Eliza Easton (Lara) create a sense of authenticity. Bridget Dru as Isabella and other supporting characters rounds off a strong cast.