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Astronaut review at the Vaults, London – ‘a compassionate show about homelessness’

Joe Wright in Astronaut at the Vaults, London

Joe Wright’s solo show about the Irish homelessness crisis, one of a number of pieces coming to the Vault Festival from the Dublin Fringe, is a compassionate piece about how the system so often fails the most vulnerable. It eloquently shows how being homeless can render people invisible in the eyes of others.

Wright plays an unnamed man who has slipped through the cracks. His mother dies, his father loses his grip on things, and he ends up in care, before being turfed out into the world with no support network in place. The story shifs between childhood memories of him staring up at the stars, full of wonder, and his life sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin, contemplating ending it all.

Wright tells his story in front of a bank of boxes on which images are projected of the river Liffey as well as news footage of the Apollo House occupation in which activists attempted to highlight the number of properties standing empty in the city while the numbers of homeless people continued to climb.

Astronaut is not particularly original in terms of theatrical form. Some of the storytelling is fuzzy and Emily Matthews’ production would definitely benefit from more dramatic texture but the writing contains moments of lyricism and Wright is an engaging presence, his performance veering between sweaty intensity and genuine melancholy. It’s a resonant and sensitive piece – a reminder to open your eyes.

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A compassionate solo show about Ireland's homelessness crisis