In 2016-17, 34,100 homeless applications were made in Scotland. On Any Given Night gives a stage to the faces and personalities behind these numbers, forcing us to look beyond the figures and ask why this is still the case.
The play introduces its audience to an energetic foursome spending a night on an unnamed Glasgow street. Stevie (Liam Lambie), David (Ross McAree), Moira (Clare Rooney) and Hannah (Laura Lovemore) are an unlikely group of friends held together by their situation. Their homelessness is explained in the context of their own lives and those who weave in and – more often than not – out of contact with them. This simple meeting allows us to think about broad themes such as depression, addiction, feminism and hope.
For Lambie, the play’s writer and lead actor, this is central to its success:
“I wanted to focus on the struggles these people face, both on the streets and on the journey that led them there. It’s so easy to place blame on them for their situation, but hasn’t everyone been down on their luck? And doesn’t the blame lie with us as a society who ignores the struggle of these people and either don’t think to or choose not to help?”
This humanity is central to the drama. Each actor brings to their role a believability and energy that resonates throughout the audience. Every person I spoke to during the interval related to something on stage. But this is no pity party. These are believable characters that demand respect as well as sympathy.
The production avoids a common mistake of much politically charged theatre – making things too comfortable. It highlights the key problem within society by first foregrounding the response of the audience.
The first act is held together by Lambie’s jam-packed script. The characters riff off one another with a never-ending stream of typically Glaswegian insults and humour. The audience is relating to them and laughing with them. By the second half we are directly asked why, if we are so similar, are we comfortable with passing their real-life counterparts on the street?
The acting is extremely high quality, with each person on stage tackling this weighty play with humour, energy and personality. Director Glynis Wozniak, whose management of a complex script and a last-minute change in cast is impressive, also plays a witty cameo.
Compelling and thought-provoking, On Any Given Night deserves a wide audience and its message would translate to any city in the UK.
by Kirsty Strang-Roy