Thursday, 17 January 2013

There's No Place Like Home - review

Written by: Adam Jay (@AdamJBJay)

Etcetera Theatre, London

Part of the Etcetera Theatre's 'Pay Nothing Play Anything' (PNPA) festival, There's No Place Like Home by Imp Face Theatre Company offers a disturbing yet hilarious look into the life of Neil and Elizabeth, who are no ordinary married couple: Neil is dead. Having somehow returned to his wife, he is unable to leave the house, and can be heard by all but only seen by his wife. What unravels is the stress and problems that happen when the marriage can't leave the house, and a slightly twisted look into whether there really is a life after death.
Situated in the heart of Camden's high street, the Etcetera Theatre is above the Oxford Arms pub, seating a moderate audience of 42. On entry, the set instantly got my attention – a hanging window and notice board from the roof of the stage was an effective use of the small space. My only worry was that there were a few trips, and a possible re-arranging may be in order to save any possible injuries to the cast or performance itself; all were expertly covered by the performers, though. Elizabeth (Jo Wang-Holm) was sat during the incoming on top of a ladder, an incredibly clever way of denoting being upstairs asleep. The stage was most definitely set for something quite remarkable.

One of the company's strongest elements was their comedic timing; in such a small space it's hard to get the audience laughing. John Fagan as Neil hit the nail on the head, notably when a Sainsbury's delivery man turns up, and Neil realises the limitations of, firstly, not being able to leave the house, and secondly to not be seen by anyone. Fagan portrays the frustration of a man fatally tied to the role of ghostly househusband with precision and wit, and one of the biggest highlights of the play is his sudden humorous epiphany that he may, just may, be a guardian angel.

Wang-Holm was a delight to watch; a beautifully shown journey from utterly shocked yet relieved widow-turned-wife, to a stressed and confused woman wanting to branch out of the cage her husband is trapped in. The two of them were well coupled, reacting to each other perfectly, which made for a very convincing emotional development through the few months over which the play unfolds. One of my favourite moments of the play was Rebekah Roe's performance of Katie's exceedingly drunk rant about her man troubles, not remembering her friend's recent widowhood until her tirade is done; a darkly comic moment, but laughable in Roe's characterisation. Strong acting from Helen Matravers, Iain Fitzgerald and within-auditorium Dot Smith – although I think that both phone conversations should be performed live, because the recording felt very out of place.

An intriguing concept brilliantly written by Catherine Lucie, and after this little gem, I believe the PNPA festival at Etcetera Theatre has a lot more treasures to uncover.

This production was part of the PNPA festival which runs throughout January. 
@EtceteraTheatre @ImpFaceTheatre 

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