There is a great deal to look at and enjoy in Geoff Sobelle’s large-scale performance piece. Its unfolding is endlessly interesting to observe.
Like all houses, Home starts from nothing. Sobelle strolls up to the stage, places a couple of portable work lamps, and sets to work on a simple wooden frame. He staples plastic sheeting to it, hoists it up and drags it into position.
As he does so, a bed appears, from nowhere it seems – the first in a series of deft stage illusions that lead to the appearance of a two-storey house on the stage. As the performance progresses, furniture is moved in and inhabitants emerge (some from the depths of a mattress) and this house becomes a home.
It’s not just a home for Sobelle, though he’s a near-constant presence. This building (designed by Steven Dufala) is a kind of palimpsest which allows us glimpses of succeeding layers of human occupation.
Meticulously arranged by director Lee Sunday Evans and played by a company of seven, we watch different generations of tenants, seemingly unaware of each other’s existence, enact a wordless ballet of everyday domestic routine. Appearances from singer-composer Elvis Perkins, in white suit and eccentric hat, crooning over the echoing twangs of his autoharp and beautifully picked 12-string guitar serve as partitions.
The tiny vignettes coalesce and the house goes from home to homely. Pictures go up on the wall; plates pile up in the sink; a table is set for a celebration – one to which we, the audience, are invited. If you are one of the many selected to join the action, you may find yourself on stage and for some time.
For the final stretch of this 110-minute performance, the theatre itself is the house and it’s a joyous place to be. But of course, most houses outlive those who call them homes. And ultimately, houses don’t live forever.
There are many arresting moments and poignant sequences: eye-blink character entrances; lighting designer Christopher Kuhl’s slow sunrise raking the bedroom; billowing shrouds of plastic sheeting; a lifetime of celebrations compressed into a delirious parade (complete with marching band); the Grim Reaper entering via the door under the stairs; a pile of household detritus left on the nature strip.
At times I found myself recalling one of my favourite films of recent times, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, in which Casey Affleck, draped in a white sheet, haunts the house in which he died. Inevitably, you will think about your own home and the memories stored there.
But despite Home‘s many magical moments, I found myself less moved than I expected to be. For a piece exploring one of the fundamental human relationships – that between ourselves and the place we live – it proves curiously unemotional.