WALKING down London Road or North Street, it is impossible not to notice the homeless people sleeping rough in Brighton.

While this is an all-too-evident indicator of poverty, a new show from recently formed company Brighton People’s Theatre (BPT) seeks also to portray the impact of austerity on domestic life.

Naomi Alexander, who set up the group in September last year, was struck by the disparity in wealth in Brighton when she was looking for a topic to base the company’s first show around. While Brighton is often associated with relative luxury and cultural wealth, there are 15 food banks operating across the city.

“A lot of poverty is quite hidden,” says Alexander ahead of a production of Tighten Our Belts in Brighton. “It is difficult to get a sense of what is going on behind closed doors. Part of what this show is exploring is the cost of cuts across the city, in the same way that I, Daniel Blake is doing in cinemas at the moment.”

After an extensive development schedule, involving visiting the Purple People Food Bank in Portslade (which “literally saves lives” according to Alexander) and various council departments, the theatre company set about creating fictional characters based on victims of austerity.

Tighten Our Belts features actors – many of who have never appeared on stage before, and some of who currently receive benefits – telling the stories of impoverished people in third person and through song and dance.

Alexander has a few reasons for fictionalising the real case studies behind her production.

“We wanted to put everyone on a level playing field and protect people,” she says. “In some sections of the media there is a lot of hostility towards people who receive benefits. We didn’t want to put people on stage playing themselves if there was a chance viewers might not respond well.”

The fledgling theatre company were given free tickets to various performances at Brighton Dome, and one show in particular paved the way for Alexander’s creative approach to Tighten Our Belts.

“We went to see Chris Goode’s performance Men In The Cities, which is a one-man show in which he tells the stories of men across London in third person over an hour and a half. The whole company was captivated and from that we had the idea that rather than our actors playing characters they would tell stories in the third person.”

Composer Kirsty Martin and choreographer Gary Clarke were recruited to help the company bring the stories to life through song and dance respectively and weave the stories into a cohesive whole. “We’ve tried to make characters that feel true, rather than characters that just represent an issue,” adds Alexander.

At a preview of the performance in February audience members – some of whom were on benefits – reacted positively to Tighten Our Belts.

“We were blown away by it,” says Alexander. “We had no idea how it would go because most of the cast had never done anything on stage. A lot of the audience spoke passionately afterwards about how it made them feel taller.”

BPT was established in September 2015 and, after a series of open workshops, a company of 10 was formed. Over the past year, BPT have worked with the Dome and the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project to gather first-hand stories of struggling residents. The aim is to take the play around the country on a “pay what you like” basis.

“The idea is to book ahead and then pay what you desire after the production,” says Alexander. “We understand going to the theatre is a risk for people with little money, because you don’t know whether the production is going to be any good.

“This strategy encourages people from all backgrounds to venture into the theatre.”

Brighton Dome Studio Theatre, New Road, Saturday, November 26, shows at 3pm and 7.30pm, pay what you like on the night, 7.30pm sold out but call for returns, 01273 709709, book in advance