The Hope Theatre
Only the day before going to this show, I was having a conversation with one of our reviewers currently in Edinburgh about plays dealing with homelessness. She had just seen one which she felt didn’t do the tough subject proper justice, concluding that it didn’t delve deep into its chosen topic, but rather gave it a sugar coating. So, I approached Just Sayin’ with a little trepidation, especially as it looked as if it too would be quite a sweetly flavoured offering.
Proceedings begin probably as far from homelessness as you can get, as we first meet Cat (Tina Zucco) at a speed dating event. She’s feeling left behind in life since her last single friend turned traitor and coupled up. It’s clear Cat believes finding someone would make her life a whole lot better – that it would fill a void within it. She is so convinced by this that her desperation almost pours from her (although that could simply be sweat from the lack of aircon in this lovely but non air-con’d black box theatre).
Cat quickly realises speed dating isn’t for her. However, the Greek Adonis handing out flyers nearby may be. And just like that, she suddenly finds herself helping out at a homeless shelter in order to impress him. It’s an odd way to start volunteering, and early on she makes it abundantly clear her real feelings; more disgust at those she is meant to be helping, blaming them for their poor life choices that surely caused them to need such help.
Of course, this play is one of discovery. Cat starts to hear the stories of how individuals came to be there and her eyes gradually open. Her quest for love is forgotten, replaced instead by a quest to help, to do something good. In exchange she realises how that gaping hole in her life is suddenly filled, not by love but by doing something worthwhile and selfless.
There is so much to love about Just Sayin’, from the way the story unfolds without ever feeling forced or saccharine, to the delightfully fragile solo performance from Zucco. Her Cat is one of innocence, full of naivety about the realities of street life, but she slowly learns, in an awful kind of way. More than that, she delivers up hope that life can have a purpose, that in the simple act of giving you can receive so much in return. Or as she puts it “you will find family in the most bizarre of people”.
Zucco’s movement helps keep an audience engaged, something that is even more vital in a solo show, because where else can we look if not at the sole actor, fully exhibited in front of us? She flicks from chair to rear wall, to centre of the tight space, and even throws a few snazzy dance moves in along the way. The lighting responds to her mood – bright moments when the Greek Adonis is around, darkly lit when later events take a less happy turn, bringing us back to the grim realities of living rough.
As I am leaving, I’m still pondering my colleagues’ comment on how her homelessness show left her feeling unsatisfied. I can say the complete opposite of Just Sayin’. I leave pleased that not only has this show entertained, but it has surely made some in the audience think differently about homelessness. I’m even more delighted to see how many people stop on the way out to scan the QR code to donate to BEAM, the homelessness charity the show is supporting along the way. Maybe those people who donate will find their own fulfilment knowing they did something good as well as getting to enjoy charming Zucco’s company for an hour this evening.
Written by: Tina Zucco
Directed by: Lara Cosmetatos
Produced by: Siân Elissa
Just Sayin’ played as part of Camden Fringe 2022. You can find out about future dates via their Twitter account here. You can also read more about the show in our recent interview with Tina Zucco here.
You can find out more about Beam and donate here.