The Van – Onine@The Space

Donations to Raised Voices can be made via their website here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Any resident of Edinburgh has likely taken a stroll past one of the homeless catering vans that are situated around the city. With nary a glance, we have an idea of who uses these vans – for sustenance, for support – but few of us appreciate the value and necessity that Street Work or Care Van provide Edinburgh’s homeless and recovering population.

Providing nourishment for the mind, along with the body, Raised Voices aid their members in developing confidence, employability and well-being through creative means. Supporting Edinburgh’s homeless, the award-wining charity also promotes a healthy state of mind for those with Mental Health issues. The Van is a series of conversations and poetic verses concerning the homeless population’s challenges during COVID-19.

Featuring a diverse cast of Raised Voices regulars and city workers, The Van lifts the lid on the frustrations for those in hostels, temporary accommodations or with nowhere to go when lockdown hit. Unable to see the only friends and loved ones they know – with some also suffering from the withdrawals as pharmacists limit visitors and opening times – the writing is stark, eye-opening and unashamedly honest as is necessary to forge a connection with the audience.

The idea of the homeless staying in vacant hotels makes sense, but the unfamiliarity of suddenly finding oneself unable to move freely, staying confined to space not your own has adverse effects. As support workers lament the loss of regular faces, the usual van visitors catch-up with one another with some jovial banter, light-hearted remarks and frank discussion on drugs, life and the past.

Commemorating Ken Bridges – known for his association with Raised Voices, his wit and experiences shared with the people of Edinburgh – The Van is a fitting tribute to a man who pressed on through life’s difficulties, armed with a stiff lip and some craic. A short reading of the opening of Bridge’s book Crime, Punishment & Mars Bars is a highlight and makes for a terrific bond for those struggling to connect with the film.

Dodgy audio frustratingly leads to the piece’s only significant downfall, where the raw and unfiltered performances are washed away by the city’s brisk winds. It leads to scenes being difficult to decipher, and given the strong performances, makes for disappointment. The Van is a hub, a lifeline in precarious circumstances. While it goes unnoticed by so many, it is a hive of humanity captured touchingly (and vitally) by Raised Voices. 

The Van can be streamed online here

Review originally published for The Wee Review

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