Cardboard Citizens’ Bystanders is not a verbatim play, because verbatim would prove difficult with a subject like this (where many individuals involved are no longer with us). Some parts are imagined, others fictionalised, some are adapted to form what the company coins ‘an intelligent transcription’ – getting across the meaning of what is being said instead of reproducing it word-for-word. The company offer this information as the introduction to the play – not to show off their knowledge of theatre theory, but to set the record straight, and honour the subjects of their play without assuming that what they had to imagine must be true.
There are six different stories to follow, which can be problematic at times. The four actors (Jake Goode, Libby Liburd, Mark Lockyer and Andre Skeete) change between characters effectively, but the structure of the play can be confusing. Nevertheless, by the end of the hour, the stories become clear and all contribute nuanced and insightful perspectives towards guilt experienced for the high number of deaths amongst the homeless.
Bystanders show policemen and the paramedics leaving a drunken homeless man in a public toilet to sober up – the individual does not sober up and dies shortly after due to alcohol poisoning. Another person gets sprayed with paint by a “frustrated man” outside a grocery shop, while the guard filmed it at the request of the attacker. These are just two of the six stories told to raise awareness of the role of society in the rise of deaths of homeless people.