Saturday, 3 November 2012

Home - review

Written by: Rachel Hopping (@roadtorach)

Where did Hop pop? 
The Last Refuge, London 
Was it top for Hop? 

Hidden just off Peckham’s bustling Rye Lane, The Last Refuge provides the perfect shelter from the ghostly Halloween chill. A formidable, industrial door, marked only by curling chalked lettering and friendly fairy lights conceals a phenomenal hidden world in vivid contrast to its industrial setting. It’s the last place you’d expect to find such rare and beautiful theatre. But behind the scraping metal door, a cosy, candlelit bar - chock full of antique furniture and bric-a-brac - softens the harsh warehouse walls. Step through the chalk daubed back doors and enter yet another space entirely.

Home certainly makes use of the eerily atmospheric space in this ‘American folklore’ flashback of the life of Ceephus Miles and his ‘struggle to remain true to himself in a changing world’. Home provides poignant insight into identity, home and the complications of change through its simple linear progression through the scene of Ceephus’ life. The intimacy of the venue provides excellent identification with the audience, who sit rapt, mesmerised by the flexibility of talented performers Pearl Mackie, Shvorne Marks and Joel Trill, whose passionate dialogue and close knit community dominates the stage, admirably presenting their strong connection with every single one of the twenty-five characters they portray.

The set is beautifully minimal, and unchanging, yet makes full use of the space available. Incorporating backstage lofts, stairs shrouded by gauzed flats and a split level wooden stage, we are fully transported to ever changing locations through movement and very simple, clean costume changes, from the transformation of hats, bows and glasses to the substitution of benches for beds, buses and gutters. Folk music and song punctuate the plotline, with two strong female vocals creating sound effects that keep in line with the clean minimalism of the set; it’s powerfully effective in the same way that the complete absence of props creates stronger illusion of their presence.

The strongest asset comes in the power, versatility and focus of its actors. The script is also cleverly developed – a humorous exploration and provocation of taboo issues, and director Vik Sivalingham juxtaposes comic and tragic to create a hugely enjoyable piece with modern space considerations.

Raw and poignant as the piece is, it does have some minor flaws - at times, the chaotic pace blurs lines, which creates confusion, and the relevance of the first scene jarred slightly with the play’s conclusion. But Home is delightful, and the intimacy of the piece is yet another accolade in its perseverance to bring audience emotion and empathy directly into Ceephus’ life. Home isn’t just a tale of times past: its tactile consideration of struggles and religious belief in the face of national expectation and pride resonates in contemporary Britain. 
               Heartfelt Home truly captivates: bringing the dusty heat of the farm to the busy streets of South London. It’s a magical and heart-warming production that transcends the everyday. 

This production runs until 17 November 2012. 
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