Edinburghâ€™s streets are currently thronging with visitors as the festival season is in full swing and some may have briefly registered, with slight surprise, the large numbers of homeless people wedged in doorways or sitting on blankets outside shops.
Most will hurry on by to their next show, feeling a slight discomfort, not wishing to make eye contact. They may not think much more about it because itâ€™s easy to think of â€˜the homelessâ€™ as a homogenous group, rather than individuals with a story to tell.
Raised Voicesâ€¦ Real Lives is an Edinburgh fringe performance which distils homelessness into one manâ€™s true story of how he came to be living on the streets and how he eventually found redemption and rebuilt his life.
This drama is created and performed by people who have experienced homelessness and/or mental health issues and who are all members of Edinburgh based charity, Raised Voices.
It starts in 1986 when Kevin, our lead character, played by the real-life Kevin, has to turn off the life support machine for his baby son. It is the story of one man, who up until this point has led a normal life, holding down a job and a relationship, paying the bills and doing just fine.
Particularly moving are the funeral scenes as members of the cast, dressed in black process slowly and respectfully across the stage carrying his sonâ€™s casket.
Following his devastating loss, Kevinâ€™s life spirals out of control, and the play thereafter touches on some of the reasons people become homeless as it details how Kevin lost his livelihood, relationship and self-esteem and ended up living on the streets and in the hostels of Edinburgh.
The depiction of Kevinâ€™s unravelling is quite overwhelming at times – his personal devastation, as the turn of events unpicks the foundations of his life is all the more raw when you realise that this was a life lived by the one who portrays it.
True horror is epitomised brilliantly in one scene when Kevin is besieged by those who prey on people living on the streets: members of the cast home in simultaneously, offering drugs, sex and a range of insults.
Powerful and moving, this individual story proves an uncomfortable point that homelessness could potentially happen to anyone. But this is ultimately an optimistic story as it shows how Kevin eventually finds his way out of life on the streets and how he now holds down a job caring for others.
It is also an urgent and important reminder that those whom we walk past daily â€“ all year round, not just festival time â€“ are individuals with names, who have their own reasons and their own stories, as to why they are there.
Written and directed by Blair Christie and Archie Gray with help from members of the charity, the show is running until Saturday 17th August at 3pm, Venue 38 (theSpace Triplex, Hill Place, EH8 9DP.
Tickets are Â£5 via www.edfringe.com
Photo Credit: Raised Voices