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Homelessness theatre show finds home at Wales Millennium Centre

Behind the Label, a gritty new theatre production written, produced and performed by people who have experienced life on the streets or have been threatened with homelessness, will take centre stage at Wales Millennium Centre today (Thursday 13) and Friday 14 December. 

Behind the Label is produced and performed by a group of real people who are clients of The Wallich, Wales’s leading homelessness charity. The performers will share their real-life experiences – including trauma, addiction, homelessness and mental health issues – and their feelings of being labelled by society.

This unfiltered performance will challenge audience members’ ideas and preconceptions through powerful spoken monologues and song. It asks everyone to look behind negative labels such as ‘junkie’ or ‘criminal’ and listen to the human stories that accompany them.

Behind the Label is delivered by Theatre vs Oppression (TvO) in partnership with The Wallich and Wales Millennium Centre. TvO are a charity who use applied theatre and film techniques as a form of therapy with individuals, groups and communities. TvO first developed the Behind the Label project in 2016 as a way to empower vulnerable adults to share their stories in a creative, personal and thought-provoking way as part of support helping them avoid repeated homelessness in the future.

Nigel, a Behind the Label performer said:

“We’re all human beings. It should be that, not a label we’re given.”

Behind the Label has allowed the participants to build their confidence, discuss their experiences, make new friends and gain new skills that they can use in the future.

Sian David, head of participation and progression at The Wallich, said:

“The people we work with are usually taken at face-value by the public; putting every rough sleeper’s story into a box we call ‘the homeless’. In reality, there is often pain, sometimes poverty and always a personality behind the person experiencing homelessness that’s in front of you. Behind The Label helps our guys take themselves out of that box and gives them back a voice that is rarely heard or truly cared about.”

To prepare for the show, participants attended extraordinary creative workshops from script-writing to set design. As part of Wales Millennium Centre’s engagement work, staff have been sharing their skills in weekly Behind the Label sessions since July – including lighting, sound, set design, customer service and marketing.

Wales Millennium Centre has been home to the Behind the Label project since 2016, with this year’s group’s final theatre production taking place in their 200-seat Weston Studio on 13 and 14 December. The performers are proud to take the stage of an iconic Welsh theatre – an opportunity that does not come to many.

Over the course of the 18-week project, there’s been a marked transformation in people’s confidence, creativity, openness and communication, from both the participants and the WMC staff involved.

Since the first Behind the Label project in 2016, some of the participants have continued their journey with Wales Millennium Centre as volunteer ushers while others have returned as valuable mentors for this year’s Behind the Label group.

Kelly, who took part in the first ever Behind The Label in 2016 and is now mentoring the new cast, said, “This year, I’ve come back as a mentor and will be part of stage management as well. One of the biggest positives is meeting other people who have also gone through so much in their lives. Which is so relatable. You don’t feel alone anymore! Behind the Label has meant an enormous amount to me – socially, it’s given me confidence and memories and friends I will never forget.”

Get tickets for Behind The Label

  • Where: Weston Studio, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
  • When: Thursday 13 and Friday 14 December 2018 at 8pm.
  • Age Guidance: 16+ (strong language and adult content)

Tickets are available from the Wales Millennium Centre Ticket Office at just £12. Visit wmc.org.uk or call 029 2063 6464