Writer: Marc-Antoine Cyr
Director: Trine Garrett
Where I Call Home is the English language premiere of Marc-Antoine Cyr’s work, translated by Charis Ainslie, which explores the themes of identity, belonging and prejudice.
In a classroom, Martin (Sammy Attalah) is constantly called upon by overenthusiastic teacher Kevin (Raphael von Blumenthal) who is clueless as to how isolating his attempts to celebrate cultural differences are. In a police interview room, Martin is harassed by a short-tempered officer Lorie (Megan Smith) who drips with prejudice and insists that he and ‘his kind’ are a danger to society. And beyond all of this, Martin longs to be accepted by the wolf pack in the forest where he lives.
Where I Call Home takes on a lot of big concepts, but the overuse of metaphor and lack of clarity can make for a slightly confusing experience. The xenophobia throughout the piece is clear and is intelligently shown in multiple forms, however the script doesn’t feel nuanced or specific enough to offer anything particularly insightful.
The performances are enjoyable and Blumenthal inspires laughs with his constant attempts to get the classroom computer to work. Meanwhile Smith is appropriately infuriating in her stubborn and prejudiced mind-set. Attalah is the most layered storyteller as we see his playful attitude turn to discomfort in the classroom, and his defensiveness soon becomes fear at the police station. Also, it is very telling how he toughens his behaviour to impress and fit in with the wolf pack.
There are certainly some intelligent ideas in the staging of the production; notably how the main layout functions efficiently as both a classroom and police interview room. However the scene changes are achingly long and, while the rotation of the whiteboards initially adds a little flair, the transitions quickly become cumbersome. This is exacerbated by the clear attempt to make the sequences more artistic with stylised movement, which only prolongs the wait.
Where I Call Home has good intentions and is an admirable effort by Foreign Affairs to address the xenophobia which is still prevalent across the globe today. Unfortunately it perhaps suffers in translation, as the production offers little in the way of new information and inspires more confusion than productive thought.
Runs until 27 November 2021