In The Crackwalker, by Judith Thompson, five down-and-out characters living in the downtown struggle to make ends meet, to survive.

There's Sandy and Joe, who are in an abusive relationship, and Theresa and Allan, who are both dealing with mental illness. There's also "The Man," a homeless Aboriginal person who lurks in the cracks of society.

"Our overall goal is to create awareness of the people who are on the streets with us," says Spenser Payne, who plays Theresa. "We want to be tour guides into this place."

"The social issues that we deal with in this play are very relevant to our day, even though the play was written in 1980," Payne adds.

This is a gritty, raw play that was controversial 30 years ago when it was written. "And it's still controversial today!" exclaims Payne. "We're still dealing with this stuff instead of solving anything and that's a shame because you have people who are incapable of dealing with their mental illnesses and with their social statuses in the world."

The Crackwalker

Spenser Payne in "The Crackwalker" by Judith Thompson (Jeff Myall)

'Our overall goal is to create awareness of the people who are on the streets with us.' - Spenser Payne, actor

The play is being presented in an unusual location, the Legion No.1 on Sargent Avenue. 

The day  the team was looking for a venue, they came upon the legion and there happened to be a fight outside the doors.

"When we went in we were greeted with open arms and so much kindness and friendliness," says Payne. It's that contrast that makes it the perfect venue.

While the play deals with serious social issues, it's treated with moments of lightness and humour.

"Our overall message would be finding the beauty in this darkness, finding the joy and the reason they all live," says Payne.

The Crackwalker is presented by a new theatre company, the Sweet and Salty Collective, with co-producers Spenser Payne and Heather Russell. Debbie Patterson is directing. 

The Crackwalker plays at the Legion No.1, 626 Sargent Avenue, Sept. 26 - 29.