Play about Focus E15 mums wins rave reviews at Edinburgh fringe

PUBLISHED: 18:00 16 August 2016 | UPDATED: 13:02 17 August 2016

Performance shot of the cast in E15. Picture: Joseph Priestley

Performance shot of the cast in E15. Picture: Joseph Priestley


A play about the housing struggles of a group of women from a housing estate has won rave reviews at the Edinburgh fringe.

E15 tells the verbatim story of the Focus E15 campaign, a group of women who faced eviction from a Newham hostel for vulnerable young people in 2013, attracting national interest in their story as campaigners for social housing.

The five-star rated show, co-written by university friends Helen Monks and Matt Woodhead, has been playing at the festival over the last couple of weeks. It had a small run at the fringe in 2015.

The message has been resonating with many of its audience members, according to 23-year-old Helen, who described the national housing crisis as “scary”.

“It is at breaking point because almost everyone is affected in London,” she said.

“Everyone is struggling because there is no social housing or private rent is unaffordable.”

She said she was drawn into writing the play after Matt heard of the women’s plight and brought it to her attention.

The two writers conducted more than 200 hours worth of interviews with the young women, condensing their script down into one hour.

Additional commentary from advice workers, political activists and civil servants is also included to give a better sense of the picture.

Helen said: “The campaign is extraordinary, it is so full of love. The women are relentless.”

The young playwright said she initially felt “silly” about making a play about such a serious issue but now believes it is playing its own part in the narrative.

“We have had a lot people staying behind and asking how they can help,” she said, adding that landlords have even been amongst audiences.

“The purpose of the play is to help people feel they are not alone.”

After the play’s run finishes at this summer’s Fringe festival, E15 will tour nationally at small venues.

And what of bringing the play to its birthplace of Newham?

“We do not want to confirm anything just yet but there is a plan to do it sooner rather than later,” said Helen.

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