Review: Home, QPAC, Brisbane Festival

Charlene Li

Home offers a uniquely rewarding theatre experience to those who come with an open mind.
Review: Home, QPAC, Brisbane Festival

Geoff Sobelle's theatre production Home. Photo via Brisbane Festival.

In Geoff Sobelle's theatre production Home, the audience is presented with a series of vignettes depicting life as it takes place in the home, from the mundane and tedious to the pivotal and defining. As in reality, there's plenty of situational humour on top, and a sense of the absurd. Acting and stagecraft is bolstered by elements of illusion (ie. "stage magic") towards the beginning, which is mirrored by a different, more poignant kind of magic towards the end.

There is little in the way of plot or conflict, and audible dialog is almost non-existent. While this isn't necessarily a deficiency or fault in the work, introducing some narrative – not necessarily an overarching one from start to finish – might make the work more accessible and engaging. The performances from each of the actors in Home are effortless and natural, and depict scenes of domesticity with such realism that it often seems as if we're observing the actual thing.

Lighting design from Christopher Kuhl and set design from Steven Dufala are each exceptional, and are used at times to create an immersive experience for the audience. Kuhl somehow faithfully recreates not just the various kinds of artificial lighting that can be found in a home  – from the industrial fluorescent glare illuminating a verandah, to muted tungstens for bedrooms and living spaces  – but also natural daylight. Steven Dufala's set design is inventively practical and facilitates much of the action that takes place on stage; it also has a distinct aesthetic reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film, with pops of colour and elements of kistch.

Brandon Wolcott's sound design is a vibrant pastiche encompassing tango, electronica, electro-swing, and mid-20th century pop; it's bolstered with indie-folk songs from singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins – performed by Perkins himself who appears at appropriately inappropriate moments donning a white sequinned suit another Elvis P is known for.

What Home lacks in the narrative department it makes up for by ramping up the other features of live theatre: audience engagement and interaction, and a sense of this being live theatre – with real risks and each performance unfolding in slightly different ways. This is accomplished through getting audience members up on stage to partake in the shenanigans that ensue, gradually at first but eventually culminating in what feels like an incredulous house party involving the entire audience. A particularly special moment involves two audience members recalling memories of their childhood homes.

The best way to take in Home is not so much as the theatre work it's billed as in the Brisbane Festival program, but as performance art or simply something to be experienced. Those who approach it with an open mind will find themselves rewarded with a bespoke and touching theatre experience.

4 ½ stars ★★★★☆

Home

Geoff Sobelle and Brisbane Festival
Director: Lee Sunday Evans
Performers: Geoff Sobelle, Sophie Bortolussi, Justin Rose, Ayesha Jordan, Ching Valdes-Aran, Elvis Perkins, Luke Whitefield
Sound Design: Brand Wolcott
Lighting Design: Christopher Kuhl
Set Design: Steven Dufala

12-15 September 2018
QPAC Playhouse

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Charlene Li is an arts junkie with a few too many interests. She thinks the Brisbane arts scene is Australia's best kept secret.