By Rosie Niven
When you walk into the Roslyn Packer Theatre to see Geoff Sobelle's HOME, it is impossible to know what to expect. We stare at a empty stage decorated with nothing but two unlit flood lights flanking the sides. As the first actor comes to the stage, the audience hushes, confusedly looking around as the house lights are still on. We watch this man slowly work on piecing together a wooden frame and some plastic, meticulously stapling each piece of loose sheet. When he is done, he lifts up the new wall proudly, though all his hard work looks so small on stage. As we try to understand how this wall will somehow create the basis of the majestic structure we've seen in all the posters, what can only be described as true magic occurs. As he slides his wall to the left of the stage, a bed appears. Slides his wall to the right, and we see a door appear from nowhere. This is the first instance of illusionist theatre we see in HOME (illusion design by the brilliant Steve Cuiffo), and from this moment, the show's illusions continue to shock and delight the audience, right down to the very last moments of the play.
After stints in the US and at the Edinburgh International Festival, HOME comes to the Sydney Festival with a beautiful examination of the meaning of 'home'. Inspired after discovering different layers of his kitchen floor, each laid by former residents in his 100-year-old Philadelphia house, Sobelle creates a visual masterpiece that allows us to become a part of the rich history of the home we see on stage, watching numerous generations of inhabitants occupy this same space. Particularly striking are moments where all seven actors occupy the same room of the house but without any interaction with one another. These moments give insight into the often overlooked importance of the relationship we have with space. Items that are broken at one moment, are repaired generations later and we are reminded of the indelible mark each generation leaves on both time and place. Genius illusions, including a particularly breathtaking shower sequence, leave the audience audibly gasping and obviously engaged.
It is credit to the versatility of Steven Dufala’s set that the illusions are executed so successfully. A collection of lego blocks built up before our eyes, the set allows for each person to leave their own mark on the ever-moving environment. It is an incredibly special experience to receive what feels like a behind-the-scenes peek as we watch the set grow and shrink over time. Supporting the set is Christopher Kuhl's innovative lighting design that highlights and hides actors throughout the performance, helping Cuiffo's enchanting illusions come to life.
HOME at Sydney Festival is a true masterpiece, and a work that I highly recommend as something innovative and ground-breaking for Sydney audiences. Beg, borrow, steal a ticket - whatever you need to do to make sure that you DEFINITELY see it before it’s gone.
HOME is playing until January 18th. Get your tickets here.
Photo credit: Victor Frankowski
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.