Street Life play puts Norwich's rough sleepers centre-stage

Street Life poster
Image caption Street Life tells the stories of people in Norwich's homeless community

The voices of rough sleepers are being transferred from the streets to the stage in a new play aimed at helping people to "understand" homelessness.

Street Life was written following interviews with people sleeping out in Norwich and is told in their own words.

Actor Nicole Lois Wilkinson, who has been homeless, said many people were "afraid" of rough sleepers as "it's territory many of them don't know".

The play is being performed at Norwich Theatre Royal on 27 and 28 February.

Image caption The cast of Street Life, including Heather Whatley, centre, and Nicole Lois Wilkinson, right

Actor Heather Whatley said the play was effective in breaking down the barriers to people understanding homelessness.

"A lot of the things that people in our play are saying is: 'Understand that we are human beings. We have got big problems but just talk to us and understand our story a little bit'," she said.

The play has been written by James McDermott and is being staged by Verbatim Theatre Performance.

Image caption Artist Devin Smith has been documenting the lives of homeless people in paintings

An exhibition running at the theatre at the same time also showcases the lives of the city's homeless.

Artist Devin Smith has spent time getting to know them, their interests and their backgrounds.

She then reflects their experiences in oil paintings, which are given to them to keep or to sell.

Image caption Artist Devin Smith with one of her paintings on display at Norwich Theatre Royal

She said: "I know a few people who have felt a stigma attached to them because of their drug addiction.

"We categorise people for our own sense of protection - that's human - but the artwork is there to dig out that stigma."

Image caption Street Life tells the stories of people in Norwich's homeless community

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