By Pratiksha Pathak
★ ★ ★
During this festive time, where everything is about joy, love, lights and hope, the performance of ‘Behind The Label’ at the Wales Millennium Centre took us away from all the sparkle and glitter for a few hours. The 120-minute show by Theatre Versus Oppression sheds light on the harsh reality of the lives of homeless people. While traditional festive shows and events are about celebration, candle-lit dinners, Sunday roasts and Christmas markets, this one drifts towards the cruelties of rape, prostitution, abuse, statelessness and lack of a safe space in the lives of those most affected by poverty.
Set in the backdrop of an ‘Easy Inject’ aeroplane, the play gives the actors a chance to tell their stories of survival. The stories range from sexual abuse and separation to the pain of illegal immigration and the struggle for acceptance. The question of belonging is central to each of these narratives. Almost all the actors in the play are volunteers who were keen to share their stories and finally found a platform through theatre.
The stories are constantly juxtaposed with pre-recorded videos of the participants sharing specific instances of what they have gone through. Some stories of cruelty will make you shed a tear, while others will make you cringe. Someone shared a story of how people would puke and piss on him after returning from parties when he slept on the streets of Cardiff City Centre, while another video raises awareness about the labels being imposed on homeless people. However, the emotional recollection continues without any relief for two hours, which at times becomes overwhelming for the viewers and forces some to disengage momentarily for a breather.
This performance will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride, but it surely isn’t for the faint-hearted. It introduces the gruesome realities of life most of us are unaware of and surely deserves a watch!