Writer: Annie George
In essence, all stories are personal, whether to creator, inspiration or simply a re-telling from a new perspective. Writer and performer Annie George crafts Home is Not the Place as an inherently personal narrative -a crucial motivation behind her work. For her, story is everything, the foundation and core of any production. More than this, this personal nature extends beyond hers and into her grandfather’s experiences, and a representation of diversity on the stage, not only culturally, but for older producers.
Familiarising herself with her grandfather, a man who passed away twenty-five years before her birth, George is getting to grips with the Kerala writer’s legacy just as much as we are. This intimate aspect instils so much more than any book, or account could offer us. Reflecting on her struggles with migration into the UK to join her parents, George fuses her story with that of Grandfather PM John.
Largely told through simple storyteller devices, monologuing to the audience, traversing history in search of what, or where, ‘home’ is, George’s adept talent with the spoken word unfolds. Structurally, Home is Not the Place is well-written, if shaky in pacing. Much of the script is solid, with metaphorical and symbolic uses of objects found at the front of the stage. Playfully George ties back much of what she says with her grandfather’s life, but the frequency of the transitions, especially when shifting towards other family members, can be momentarily jarring.
George opens up about her experiences when arriving in the UK, growing from her young age and beginning her own family. Is home the UK, the nation she moved and grew up within? Or is it still in the magnificent expanses of India so richly described? Is home for George a frame of mind, where the memories of families lay in comfort? It’s a concept only accomplished writers can capture, and the toying of language from George is a masterclass in the spoken word, wrapping her tone or wording to the situation, culminating in a brief story of a hurricane, battering a family home, which stops the audience’s breath as they long for the climax.
Placing itself in limbo, George’s production is neither pure aesthetically storytelling, nor capitalises on the video projection or production design. Incorporating these elements for a narrative mechanic, these work well but are imbalanced in impact. Projected behind George, the audience can see family-trees, photos and other graphical designs or scenery. Particularly the shots of rivers, luscious greens cast against the still water, are soothing but feel displaced next to George.
Elaborating the lost work of her grandfather, the jumping point for the production moves from the end of British rule of India, into the parallel experiences felt by those migrating from the Commonwealth into a ‘welcoming’ Britain. The cries to go home, that there’s no work and the blatant racism stands in stark irony to the false-promises of the British Empire. Home is Not the Place manages to find a pinpoint articulation for this, without resorting to ham-fisted emotion.
We can live forever through the stories we weave, Annie George breathing fresh life into her grandfather’s poems and lost works by sharing them. An emotional, accessible production, Home is Not the Place doesn’t provide a concrete answer for just precisely what ‘home’ is, but it doesn’t set out to accomplish this. It’s a warming, eye-opening narrative of the continued need for diversity, and the endless depths of experiences we can share.
Reviewed on 22 February 2020 | Image: Contributed