Reviewed by Carmella Winter
Sitting in the audience of a show and feeling the house lights turn on as a cast member begins pacing the rows, preparing to choose someone to be dragged on stage is almost never a fun experience. But the audience members who ended up on stage during Home all instantly became just as much a part of the show as the performers, and it was incredibly entertaining to watch.
There was a moment where I was certain that the 'audience members' on stage interacting with the characters weren't real audience members at all. Disappointed, and completely convinced that I'd ruined the show for myself, I sat back and continued to watch as they got more and more people up. It was at one point when I saw that the audience member on stage seemed to be reading the label of a wine bottle while holding it up to the light that I realised there must be something written on it, instructing them what to do and say. It was real.
This show has two distinct parts. In the first, the house is constructed live on stage, and then the people moving in and living in the home. The second half integrates the audience into the show, and attempts to show all of the memories that are made in a house and attempts to create a feeling of togetherness and connection, as the audience and the performers go through a series of important life events together.
Home is visually and conceptually exciting, from the performers continuing to build on and modify the house throughout the whole first half, to the intricacies in how they move, to the tricks with staging and light that make it seem as though characters appear and disappear from thin air. As a show with almost no dialogue, it really proves that seemingly simple content such as people's daily routines can be made stage-worthy with the right ideas and direction.
The set is absolutely wonderful and exciting. When I saw photos in the promotional material for Home it instantly reminded me of the dollhouse I had as a kid. I've always been fascinated tiny rooms with doll furniture and tiny doll things like tea cups and shoes. This is just like a life-size dollhouse, with the dolls come to life. Or just a regular house with the front wall sliced off. Either way, I loved this set. And every detail was thought out and beautiful, and it felt like a real home.
In one of my favourite moments, we see the people in our house go through different emotional hardships, symbolised by things like a shelf in one of the rooms collapsing and all the items falling down and breaking. This scene is unexpectedly powerful, as we develop an emotional connection to both of these characters and the house itself. Seeing them suffer is extremely difficult. And we as an audience really care.
In the second part of the show relies heavily on audience participation. At one point, there are barely any of the original cast members on stage; it's just full of audience members, living in the house. It's an ambitious concept, but so effective. Audience members here are so much more than uncomfortable participants. At times I wanted more emotional connection and development from the characters. When this came, it was effective. At one point we see the young boy and the older woman quietly talking and sitting by each other on the bed, both dressed in funeral attire. The show doesn't seem to commit to whether they are characters in the most traditional sense or an abstract representation of different generations and types of different people living in the space. I would have loved to see the child in the house growing up over the years and see how the way he used the house and interacted with the people in it change as he goes through adolescence. There is one example of this is in the second half of the show, when we see him brought home by police, but I was left wanting more of his story.
With an absurdist theme, while some of the experimental choices are interesting and exciting and move the work forward, not all of them land as well, and can leave the audience wondering if they were significant to the story, and if so, how?
Home is unlike any other show I've ever seen. Despite some creative choices that for me didn't all work perfectly, the risk taking pays off, and it's a great show. Many theatre companies present their shows as an 'experience', but this production truly lives up to that. Home is an experimental, amusing, chaotic and at times confusing piece of work that has some strong ideas behind it.
10 - 15 January 2019