HOME X – Barbican, London

Reviewer: Adam Stevenson

Creators: Kakilang (An-Ting Chang, Ian Gallagher and Donald Shek)

Director and Composer: An-Ting

HOME X describes itself as a ‘live show that combines theatre, music, gaming and VR technology’ which also features, interviews, opera and breakdancing. It manages to hold all these elements together with a simple, fable-like story and a strong central theme.

The audience is led into a room with a wrap-around screen showing a charming computer game land. We meet Mia, a cute quadruped root creature played on screen by actor-gamer, Mia Foo. She hops around, showing off her magical land to the audience. Hopping around her are other little root creatures with names displayed above their heads; these are audience members experiencing HOME X within the game world from their own homes. Sometimes they clutter the screen but their presence adds to the vitality of the game world.

Then, the world darkens and two human figures appear. They are played by Si Rawlinson in the UK and Suen Nam in Hong Kong. Their actions are filmed and fed into the game. This means the audience can only see the digital avatar of Nam but can see the moving figure of Rawlinson as well as his translation into the digital world. These people are escaping the destruction of their own planet and have found this new world, X, which they set about making more like home.

The audience watches as they alter the fun Mario-esque world they’ve encountered, whilst the soundtrack is played live in London and Colette Wing Wing Lam sings soprano in Hong Kong. At the same time, the digital player-viewers add emoji like reactions as they hop around. At a crucial moment, interviewees loom onto the screen and talk about the notion of home. Some of these are from Hong Kong, reflecting on the colonial past, the current defiance and the dual heritage inherent in being Hong Kongese but there are other voices, too, from the Philippines, Iraq, Ukraine, and London.

HOME X is a daring technical experiment, pulling in live performances from across the globe in a seamless manner. There are times the addition of a live London performer is incidental, as the story itself plays out totally on the screen. Indeed, it looks more fun being one of the people in the virtual world at home, with the live audience being the most passive participants. This doesn’t stop it being an utterly unique experience that astounds with technical marvel as it also reflects on the notions of home and feeling at home.

Runs until 25 February 2023

The Reviews Hub Score

A daring technical experiment

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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