Review: Just Sayin’ at The Hope Theatre, Islington

Saturday 13th August 2022 at The Hope Theatre, Islington.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer: Maygan Forbes

Note: mild spoiler included…

In this age, dating is an extreme sport. Ask any TV show commissioner or producer, dating is the one universal experience that is bound to draw in crowds of millions to gather round and watch disaster (or actual love!) ensue. Our attention swings between dating apps to in-person matchmaking events but the goal remains the same: to find a sustainable partner to love forever more. But is there more to life than finding a romantic partner? The question may seem rhetorical but Just Sayin’ goes as far as to challenge this. On the quest to find love, Cat accidentally finds herself volunteering at the local homeless shelter, and whilst she initially commits to impress a gorgeous Spanish man aptly named “Greek God”, she begins to question her own commitment to society.

Just Sayin’ brought about dialogues that need to be shouted from the rooftops and after the play, I was left with a sinking feeling in my gut that I need to do more. As I was walking through Islington high street scouting for places still open for dinner I thought to myself, “hm, the Pho place looks nice, but then I’ve been dying for a burrito bowl all night. The Pad Thai place is kinda cute. Oh, but Five Guys is still open!” Whilst restaurants were ransacking my brain I quickly remembered that I had roughly £6 in my bank account and a whopping £0.04 in my savings, thus putting the kibosh on most of my options. But I thought to myself, fear not! I get paid next week so it’s no biggy if I spend the rest of my money on food plus the option of Bank of Parents is still available to me. Whilst I was thinking this, I passed four unhoused people on Upper Street and my reality was brought to an earth shattering standstill.

My comfort lies beyond what money I have access to; I know I have a home to go back to, food in my fridge, access to washing and hygiene facilities. I do not live in a hostile environment and have to sacrifice a warm bed in fear for my safety indoors. Zucco brings this conversation to the audience’s attention. The idea of never having to worry about stable housing or employment is a luxury Cat assumes is her right as a “socially responsible” member of society. She delves into discussions overheard by family members that cemented her initial prejudiced reactions to the unhoused. However her shift in values occurred during her time volunteering because every individual has a right to a home where they feel safe.

It’s quite a beautiful concept, the idea that someone’s search for such a pure human emotion: love led them to something even more pure. Despite her flaws, there are parts of Zucco’s character of Cat that we should all aspire to be. Her tender generosity radiates throughout the play and it’s a heartwarming play to see. Directed by the talented Lara Cosmetatos, the use of the stage works given the small space and Zucco is able to hold the audience’s attention throughout.

I took issue with the ending of the play however. Without giving away too much, after finding out that someone Cat had grown very close to, loved in her own way and was committed to helping, had a horrific thing happen to them, she was able to move on from this when her love interest speaks soft encouraging words to her and feeds her takeaway with Netflix. It felt trivial and frivolous, seeming fairly superficial and in a play that focusses on critiquing the superficialities of humanity and our battle with this, it didn’t make sense to end on a note that implies something so shallow. Takeaways and Netflix is a luxury and I did find this ending tone deaf.

In addition to this, with the current climate of today the Cost of Living crisis is affecting even those who thought they were in stable situations and didn’t have a cause for monetary concerns. Many individuals are re-evaluating those frivolous items such as Netflix subscriptions in favour of being able to afford a weekly food shop. One thing the play highlighted for me was the fragilities of social hierarchy and the notion that we are never too far away from ending up in a predicament such as homelessness or facing financial instability.

Nonetheless, there was a lot of positive to take away from Just Sayin’ and it made me start to look inwards and examine my own social responsibility. How can I help and contribute to fixing the problem of homelessness? I think it starts with attitude and our outlook on our own prejudices that may unconsciously differentiate who we think deserves to be helped and who doesn’t. Just Sayin’ gorgeously identifies that every unhoused person has a story to tell, and it may not be the story that fits the narrative we expect.

Just Sayin’ has completed its run at The Hope Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe, but you can check out further Hope Theatre listings here. Just Sayin’ works with the organisation Beam, a charity that focuses on ensuring unhoused individuals have access to long-term security and stability. If you’re able to, you can support and donate to this wonderful charity here.

Images credit: Siân Elissa

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