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9 March 2018

home; new zealand festival review

Home – Wellington Opera House – 7-11 March

Geoff Sobelle is a theatre artist "dedicated to the sublime ridiculous." We're left in the dark then when his 'interactive art installation' begins with the playwright himself building a frame.

We watch like neighbours across the street as the frame becomes a wall which in turn becomes part of a bigger structure. A washing machine glides into view, and clothes start to line the cupboards; this house slowly and lovingly becomes a home.

But it's not just the home of one – countless lives happen within the framework. We see their everyday motions: from their morning showers, as they fall in love, work, grow old, grow into new generations, burn the house and remodel it, concede to loneliness, and so on. Each routine is impressively choreographed with our dwellers floating through their days in unison, comically stepping around each other in the whirlwind of this house's lifecycle.

Music is an integral part of the story, standing in place of dialogue, which makes sense when our central protagonist is a silent building. Elvis Perkins is our diegetic narrator and returning musical guest, dressed impeccably in a white suit, accompanying the ongoing action with repetitive folk verse as the otherworldly heart of the house – he is a stand-out highlight of Home.

The theatrics of the show though are really what makes it. A man in a bed pulls the covers over himself to awaken as an older woman in the morning. Light fades and illuminates. Audience members are drawn into a party scene, featuring all past members of the house as if raging outside of space and time, which is at once a graduation celebration, a baby shower, a Christmas bash, and a funeral; we're left bewildered at where the line is drawn between the audience and actors as they mingle together on stage. For a cast of so few, the story becomes universal with its mastery of illusion and visual theatre.

Eventually, the residents move out. As our theatrical home once again becomes a frame, with plastic sheets billowing from it like the ghosts of its memories, I'm reminded of Julie Beck's reasoning that the idea of home carries with it a mindset of who we were in the moment we lived there, and all the places I've lived along the way.

There really is no place like Home.


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