How does somebody become homeless? What does it mean to live for years in a country that isn’t home? What happens when your home isn’t safe any more?
These are some of the questions asked in Black Theatre Lives’ new touring production She Called Me Mother, starring Cathy Tyson. Evangeline is a 70 year old homeless Afro-Caribbean woman who sits in London Bridge station selling a homeless magazine. Every day she hopes to bump into her estranged daughter, Shirley (Chereen Buckley). Tyson’s performance is marvellous, giving voice to a character with a heartbreaking but all too familiar story to tell.
Living in her memories Evangeline slowly reveals herself to us, the writing (by Michelle Innes) conjuring up an image of Trinidad that will give those who’ve never been a rare insight of its everyday culture. Evangeline talks in the Trinidadian vernacular describing her childhood barefoot on the sand, her cooking in mouth-watering detail and eventually how she came to leave the tiny island for a bigger one, the UK. Throughout the play the tug of her home on her consciousness is clear to the audience and rendered more poignant as, every so often, announcements remind us of her cold place on a faceless London Bridge platform.
The play sensitively deals with some extremely hard and uncomfortable topics, challenging the audience to remember that homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse not only exist but are common. Evangeline’s monologue is far from grim however; her story is told with humour, wit and wisdom.
The play, inspired by Innes’s real life encounter with an Afro-Caribbean homeless woman, gives a marginalised person centre stage in the re-telling of her own life. Although their eventual chance reunion seems implausible we are a captive audience as Evangeline and her daughter talk for the first time in years. Will they be able to put their differences aside and find peace?
She Called Me Mother returns to London on 4 November at the Artaud Theatre, Brunel University, Middlesex (tickets £10) and Tara Theatre, Earlsfield, in spring 2016. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.