Urban Sprawl’s performance of Spartacus comes to Mustard Tree

Spartacus is the inspirational true story of a Gladiator rebellion in the face of Roman oppression. Mustard Tree and theatre company Urban Sprawl share the same spirit as Spartacus and his passionate fight for freedom for the oppressed.

On Friday 27 May, we hosted the inclusive Leeds based theatre company Urban Sprawl as they entertained us with their version of Spartacus. The dynamic and ambitious reworking of the legendary story was created by a team of writers and researchers, with support from Leeds University academics and Leeds Museum archaeologists. The show was performed by a group of talented thespians, three of whom have experienced homelessness at some point.

Urban Sprawl is Yorkshire’s only homeless theatre company and they have been helping people transform their lives since 2004. Their goals are to produce 6-8 performances a year in conventional theatre venues, street theatre and in agency settings such as St George’s Crypt and Multiple Choice in Leeds.

By joining a drama company such as Urban Sprawl, people can learn a variety of personal and technical skills. Over time, through workshops and performances, many will develop important life skills such as trust, appropriate behaviour and self-confidence; which have often been damaged due to the life experiences of homelessness. The Urban Sprawl workshops create a sense of community and family, removing the professional boundaries that could restrict a homeless person’s transformation.

Drama, music and art are all positive means of expression which allow people suffering from homelessness to focus on constructive objectives. The creative nature of Urban Sprawl allows its members to explore relationships, work as a team, and help to build confidence without resorting to negative means of escape such as drugs and alcohol.

One of the homeless actors who has honed his skills and released his creativity is Matty. Matty is in his thirties and has been with Urban Sprawl for 5 years. He became homeless after leaving the care system and also suffers from PTSD after a terrible traffic accident. The art of creativity is certainly empowering. It is stories like Mattys which goes to show its therapeutic benefits for people who have experienced negative circumstances.

Playing to a jam-packed audience, the group enthralled, surprised and entertained for 90 mins. Authentic costumes, weapons and stunning backdrops all added to the experience. Urban Sprawl delivered a professional set that was explosive and at times had the audience in stitches. Graham, one of the captivated audience members said it was ‘Thought provoking, close to tears, twice! And funny. 10 out of 10.’

After a break for lunch, Urban Sprawl then held a fun- filled workshop where Mustard Tree participants got to try out some of the costumes and practice some of the dance steps used in the performance. Jayne, was one audience member who has since become inspired to release her creative instincts. ‘I ran back upstairs after the break. This was my first ever experience of a live play, it made me want to do drama.’

We cannot wait to have Urban Sprawl back to perform for us in Manchester! So whether you are here, Leeds or anywhere; there are many ways you can help your cities homeless. If you would like to find out more about Urban Sprawl, then you can check out their website or give them a call on 07961635646.

Written by Joe Spence, FireCask