Walking Play takes plight of homeless out onto the streets

Entertainment / Sun 24th Mar 2024 at 09:59am

A FORMER Burnt Mill student has written an innovative Walking Play. The play enables listeners to walk with Phoebe, a fictional street-homeless woman, along the streets of the West End of London – anytime they like.

Alan Hall (now 62), who attended Burnt Mill School in the 1970s has written Crimson Eyes – The Walking Play, which is an extended and re-formatted version of his successful short stage and radio play, Crimson Eyes, which has been performed by numerous theatre companies, as well as a radio play version aired on BBC Local Radio. 

For the Walking Play, listeners use an innovative app on their smartphones to walk through the West End of London with Phoebe, whilst listening on their headphones.  Phoebe tells her story of how she became homeless and what it’s like to live on the streets.  Listeners accompany her on one of her one-hour “Walks”, on a pre-defined route along the streets of London (St Martin’s in the Fields – The Strand – Charing Cross – Embankment – Fleet Street – St. Paul’s).  Along the way, Phoebe points out places of interest and relevance (e.g. the Arches where she sleeps; the “feeding station” where she gets free food from volunteers; the park where she spends lots of her time; and the Police Station where she’s spent plenty of nights in the cells !).

Alan said “It’s a great way to walk in the shoes of a homeless person, and experience a little about their life on the streets – as well as enjoying a lovely walk past famous landmarks, through wonderful parks and along the Embankment”.   

He said “one of the aims of the Walking Play is to dispel some of the myths and stereotypical views held by some members of the public.  It’s a grim, gritty tale that combines real-life misery with spates of humour and irony – that illustrates how a stable, comfortable person can spiral into misfortune and misery, ending up on the streets.”

Alan teamed up with actor, Isabel M. Patterson (pictured), who he cast in a recent radio play on BBC Essex, to devise the route.  “We had a lovely day in London working out the best route to set the play and timing how long it takes to get between Phoebe’s different places of interest to best make the experience work best”, said Alan.

Isabel also voiced the character of Phoebe for listeners to hear on their headphones. She has performed in a range of stage productions and has worked extensively as a screen actor.  She said “Working on Crimson Eyes with Alan, to adapt his brilliant monologue into a Walking Play, has been a really eye-opening and creatively rewarding process. When I first read the script, I was struck by Phoebe’s sense of humour that came through Alan’s writing – and her enduring spirit through the events that had taken place in her life. I enjoyed voicing Phoebe and bringing her complexities to life”.  

Crimson Eyes draws on Alan’s past experience as Director of Housing and Communities with Epping Forest District Council, from which he took early retirement a few years ago – where he was responsible for the Council’s Housing Service, including its Homelessness Service.  Following his retirement, he has written a number of short stage and radio plays, which audiences have enjoyed online and in theatres across London and the South East.

So, if you have an hour or so to spend when you’re next in London, why not meet up with Phoebe near St Martin’s in the Fields and take a walk with her.  Crimson Eyes – The Walking Play can be downloaded from https://alanhall.one/walking-play-ceimson-eyes-gallery

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