#SydFest Review: HOME

On an empty stage, a house arises before your eyes. People move in and people move out. They eat, sleep, love, argue, and throw a party where audience members are invited on stage to participate - including this reviewer! Read on to find out what happened! All photos captured by Victor Frankowski for Sydney Festival.

A crazy and unexpected thing happened to me on Thursday night when I was asked to attend and review Geoff Sobelle’s performance of “HOME.”

But before I get to that part, you should know what Sobelle’s “HOME” is all about.

Award-winning theatre-maker and absurdist Geoff Sobelle presents a magical meditation on the meaning of home in this large-scale performance work at the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

During the first hour of the show, we saw constructed walls popping up, doors being installed, objects being unpacked and the stories of the people within the two-storey house coming to life, as the rituals, relationships and drama of the everyday lives of the residents played out – as though everyone who ever lived in the house were there together, at the same time.

Combining theatre, choreography, illusion, live music and audience interaction, this live-action performance asks the question, “What makes a house a home?”

Directed by Lee Sunday Evans, the show is all about the rituals of home, whether that’s showering, jumping into bed, greeting visitors, washing dishes or eating a meal. The real magic is in how it transforms these mundane, everyday tasks into something beautiful, vibrant, theatrical and choreographed, helped along by Elvis Perkins’ gorgeously wry, folksy songs, performed live on stage. The cast were all committed to the enormous tasks they have in both construction and performance, and Steven Dufala’s set is a feat of engineering and illusion.

As the house went up and the residents moved in and out, it was hard to keep track of all that was going on. I found myself focusing on certain characters throughout the performance, which only made me miss out on the stories that were being told by the other characters, or rather the other residents. It was chaotic at times but was also poetic and completely relatable, with a story that had this writer completely engaged.

I always knew that this show involved audience participation and when the young boy of the cast started to approach the audience about midway through the show, I sat there in my seat secretly hoping that I was sitting far back enough to not be chosen.

The first two participants he approached refused to get up on stage until the woman next to them jumped up and followed the boy on stage as she played the host of a party at the home. All the residents that we were introduced to early on in the performance suddenly became guests of the party, bringing over food, wine and presents along with about 30 other audience members – including myself!

Yes, I was nervous to go up initially but when one of the main cast members approached my row and waved at me to come along with her, I impulsively decided then and there to get out of my comfort zone which changed my perspective completely as I thought, “Why not?”

So how was it? It was such an exhilarating adventure!

For a complete insider experience as one of the participants, I can only share with you what I encountered: I jumped up on stage as a guest of the party, and was later ushered backstage as the costume assistants dressed me up as a penguin, telling me to “go back to the party and dance around with the other guests” which included newlyweds, Santa Claus and a shark! Haha.

I ended up being one of the few guests chosen to stay on stage the longest, eventually becoming one of the new residents of the home (receiving instructions from Geoff and the other cast members via whispers behind the curtain), and later saw myself moving out with a box of my belongings, seeing the house get totally dismantled back down again to an empty stage, taking on different emotions as we walked away from the place we once ‘lived’.

As a self-confessed introvert who often does not like the spotlight, it was a completely out of body experience for me personally, but as I walked back to my seat, I was buzzing from the entire affair.

Two nights later and I’m still buzzing!

Roslyn Packer Theatre
January 2019
All photos captured by Victor Frankowski for Sydney Festival.