The Marked is haunting fairy-tale about the everyday lives of homeless people. Jack is a young Liverpudlian; he lives in the shadows of London, hiding away and sleeping on the streets. He’s that figure we’ve all walked past. He’s that everyday occurrence, just trying to survive.
The imagery throughout teeters between a gorgeous wonderland and a stark, waking nightmare. Jack is in turns troubled and comforted by memories of his past. His alcohol dependent, often violent, mother is a particularly resonant figure. She’s continuously shape-shifting from warm and maternal to monstrous and witch-like. At times she seems slightly oversimplified, a representation of an often abusive relationship which sometimes seems akin to the archetypal Evil Stepmother. But the way her character is summoned up and morphs into different entities feels strikingly real and complex.
The energy of the ensemble combines with a masterful grasp of mask-work, puppetry and physical theatre, with a commitment to every character in the piece. You can’t help but love Jack, the endearing and boyish Scouser.
The play, however, falters a little in terms of its plot, with certain aspects remaining unclear. Some of these (like why Jack ended up on the streets in the first place,) are better left to the imagination. But some other basic plot-points and the finer details surrounding the characters Sophie and Pete are never really made clear to us. This sense of confusion is worsened by a sometimes muddled structure and a couple of moments which seem oddly jarring, including the more outlandish pieces of humour – an incident involving pigeons in particular.
Yet while the story may sometimes fall short, the sense and the spectacle of the piece always delivers. What’s difficult to pinpoint is whether or not the imagery or movement is enough to complete the work. In such an issue-centred piece – one inspired by real-life stories of homelessness – the veracity of the narrative and giving these young characters a voice of authenticity is highly important. The fundamental merits of spinning this very real and difficult subject into a barrage of theatrical tricks and Berkovian grotesqueness are perhaps questionable.
Despite this, the visuals and imagination of the piece elicits a pure, emotional and visceral response – one which transcends the realms of discussion and debate and reaches out with a real punch at gut-level. Overall, The Marked feels like a raw and honest response to homelessness from a talented company.