Home at the Arcola
David Storey’s Home talks about nothing yet feels every ounce of loss, disappointment and failure of an entire lifetime. Five strangers cross paths at a garden seating area; as their exchange of words develops it is learnt that they not only share emptiness and a fear of the future, but that they all reside in the same 2000-strong mental asylum.
Home was premiered in 1970 at the Royal Court Theatre, its most recent performance nearly 20 years ago. The play is eerie with post-war Britannia mourning and personal hopelessness – today these and mental health themes are ever-relevant.
SEArED’s production of Home is as quietly beautiful as Storey’s writing. Within the audience’s wooden bench perimeter are multiple slabs of concrete on which two metalwork chairs and a table stand. Jack Shepherd plays the endearing Harry, who offers the play its primary emotions of defeat and unfulfilled ambitions. His dialogue with Jack, played by Paul Copley, is filled with black humour and hysterics, quickly overshadowed by bleak truths and wartime loss.
Equally captivating Tessa Peake-Jones plays comical Marjorie, a flirtatious and made-up chatterbox, whose friend Kathleen (Linda Broughton) balances her giddiness with direct, harsh interrogations of the other characters. Joseph Arkley is superb in the role of Alfred: raw with only physical energy, he is monosyllabic after a lobotomy, his compulsive weight-lifting carrying his internal pain with the same tension palpable in the audience.
The characters’ chats are as trivial as the weather, encouraging them to tell stories of their own experiences. Reflecting how clouds form over their heads, these stories are encapsulated as moments of passing thought. This is wholly the atmosphere of Home; little that is said is substantial enough to hold significant meaning, yet the actors’ intonation, eye movements and silent lowering of heads solemnly amplify a sense of loss.
Home finishes as barren as it began, with the autumnal yellowness of the lighting and fallen leaves covering the space. However, with the addition of Harry’s tear-stained handkerchief discarded on the floor, the performance churns a despair that is futile yet open-ended in conclusion. This is a strong and desolate play on waiting for rain, dinnertime and saddest of all, the end – the real performance is left to the audience after the dialogue is over.
Home is on at the Arcola Theatre until 23rd November 2013, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Home here: