This review comes from Night Writes guest reviewer Gabriella Florek.
Having seen just a short minute or so long trailer of Home, and leaving the inspection of the program notes until after the show, I had a few wild ideas of what I might experience from the opening night. But, nothing about Geoff Sobelle’s magic production was what I expected it to be.
I don’t use the word “magic” lightly here. The stage, upon audience entry to the Roslyn Packer Theatre, is completely bare and, try as hard as you might to see its assemblage, a double story, painted, furnished house more or less materialises out of thin air. The agile cast of seven spend the first half of the show filling the house with utensils and appliances: lamps, kettles, vases, and chairs, while also performing small rituals: doing yoga, brushing teeth, getting dressed. It is as though they have all been living in the house for years and know all of its nooks and crannies off by heart. Several times I found myself anticipating disaster, as the performers moved quickly, but with large flourishes through the space. Not once, (did I observe) was there an unexpected or fatal collision – everything was timed tightly.
There is no strict story line to Home, which was refreshing. The performers do not so much enact obvious drama as they play fluid characters that capture the beautiful, intimate enactments of everyday life. There is humour in these moments, such as the hilarious bathroom scene in which almost the entire cast enter and emerge from the shower; each time the curtain opened, a different body would mysteriously appear.
By the second half of the show, the game changes. What starts with a single invitation from the cast to an audience member to join them on stage, ends with a kind of house party in which altogether, maybe 20-30 people were invited onstage from the audience. Not only then were the performers juggling their own various tasks and movements through the space, but working to make the audience guests felt comfortable and incorporate them into the show. It’s chaotic but exciting to watch (both onstage and from the audience).
Sobelle’s production was inspired by his own, intimate discoveries of home. His 100-year-old Philadelphia house was discovered to have several layers of different kitchen flooring that former residents had lain. At a time where Sydney is rapidly growing, and the number of new developments skyrocket from the inner city to the fringes of the western suburbs, this production speaks volumes to the idea of what it takes to build, not just a house, but a home. Ultimately, the places we call home are not about their vastness or their newness or their polish or their grandeur – it’s the lived, everyday experience, both the tragic and the comic that form our attachment to places.
Our ideas and experiences of home differ from culture to culture, family to family and person to person. Just as the multicultural cast of Home reflect, we live in a world where the people we share our spaces come from vastly different backgrounds, different cultures or different worlds. Sobelle celebrates this idea through his visually poetic, intimate and extravagant spectacle – that while we wear our differences on our sleeve, we can still find a sense of togetherness and belonging in this chaotic, sometimes mournful, often funny life.
Home is running at the Roslyn Packer Theatre from January 9th – 18th as part of Sydney Festival 2019.