Devised and Performed by the Active Inquiry Spect-Act network
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
They say Home is where the heart is, but what happens when your home is the place you fear most? Or you haven’t got one? As we strive for a world in which everyone feels safe and secure, Active Inquiry’s Home comprises three pieces made by various theatre companies, designed to question what home means to each of us.
Achieving an interactive connection, but not in the tacky participation way, the audience is given letters to send, information and invited to offer a brief explanation of what they consider ‘home’ to be. A flavour of this evening’s performance, there’s a profoundly personal touch. What we’re witnessing is not a polished, clear-cut piece of theatre, but a raw, emotion-driven evening to highlight our systems failing to help those who require aid. Those with mental issues or escaping domestic abuse and addiction. Home doesn’t hold back the punches, because neither does real-life.
Comprising amateur performers, there’s considerable talent onstage from those who, funnily, provide substantial insight to the struggles facing renters, those with disabilities and older residents of the Capital. Even those with a steady income, a mortgage or full-time employment face life-changing issues from a troublesome landlord, personal situations or an unfavourable roll of the dice.
Wolves at the door, our opening piece takes a look at the intrusive nature of companies which fail to respect boundaries, flinging letter after letter through the door. Gregor isolates himself, seeking a humble life with his chops and a cup of tea, but gradually the bills pile, the council looms and designer Claire Halleran’s taste for puppets emerges. These concoctions of imagination slowly warp into grotesque reminders of the isolation the elderly face, the loosening grip on a quick-paced world, where corporations are less interested in aiding so much as gathering data and putting us on hold.
It’s a story which relates to the middle piece, a prominent story in Edinburgh. Those who have good jobs, affluent lives but due to unfortunate circumstances are left homeless or in bedsits. Not given the time of day as they fit into statistics or checklists, as opposed to an individual in need of help. It has keen performers, with a wide range of comedic delivery. Symbolic in parts, with the building of debt a repetitious cycle of confetti, including movement pieces to gain a deeper connection with the audience.
Our final story, focusing on Woman’s refuge and attempts to flee abuse takes an intimate, subdued angle. A touching story concerning motherhood and cultural difference, it opens up a dialogue for women fearful to speak-out or seeks help. It’s a sobering, redemptive piece on the solidarity of women and inner strength.
A minor issue, though entirely understandable, are the generalisations of government bodies. Frustrating, stress-inducing and at times callous in approach, Home paints a few individual housing officers as outright antagonists. It’s an exaggeration, but perhaps too wide a net to cast. It detracts from the seriousness, knowing that there are bad eggs in large, cold companies, but not everyone on the ground working is a villain.
Home presents us the problems, illustrating them clearly. It desperately wishes to connect with an audience and open dialogue, a noteworthy cause which it achieves. It reminds us that home is far from where the heart is, and the efforts the Shakti Women’s Aid, Bethany Christian Trust and The Alma Project undertake to spread their message as far as possible.
Reviewed on 11 November 2019 | Image: Contributed