By Adam Stepfner
Homesick by Sally Alrich-Smyth follows the story of Sam, and her recent return home from NYC. Musically gifted, Sam was on the road to stardom, studying and living in New York, although things weren’t all they cracked up to be. After a sudden return home, Sam faces the reality of her old life, while struggling with the imminent challenges that are thrown her way. Amongst this the story gives commentary on generations, the relationships between mothers and their daughters, memories, mental illness and societal pressure in today’s world.
Sally Alrich-Smyth's writing is phenomenal. The story feels so real and is relatable for a wide range of audiences. She creates such a deep level of nuance in the family dynamic, despite never having even mention of a "man" or father within the unit, an incredibly smart choice in portraying motherhood as one of the sole concepts in the piece. Her characters are people we all know and love, written with such care and depth, all considered with complete and well-rounded journeys. Alrich-Smyth takes advantage of video and live feed in this work, which was a massive pay off. The video adds a whole new experience to the piece as we watch actors being filmed and we see old video tapes of happy family times, the videos for me really played on the idea of memories. How they make us feel, how they change, and spoken about in the piece, I believe the videos did something that acting on stage just simply couldn’t have done to portray the concept. Homesick having been Sally Alrich-Smyth's first work, it’s obvious she has such clarity in her writing, giving audiences a work that is powerful, moving and heartwarming, while having characters placed on stage that could represent anyone we know and relate to.
Eliza Scott is brilliant as the lead. Her performance was fuelled with passion and power, with every intention so clear her ability is simply amazing. Deborah Galanos and Annie Bryon, who came into the show only 5 days ago, an extremely impressive feat, playing Sam's mother and grandmother were fantastic, giving heartfelt performances, embodying these women and playing them with incredible depth and honesty. Alex Stylianou plays Sam's ex-boyfriend, who becomes a "shoulder to cry on" for Sam in the piece. His performance was fascinating, playing the character in such a real way that almost every line felt like improvisation. Claudia Osborne's direction felt clear and concise, not overworking the piece but pushing it just enough to create a work that is interesting but still existing in a realistic world. She works live performance and film together perfectly particularly in scenes where the two co-existed on stage, melding them together to create an interesting visual image, while allowing them both to shine equally in the space.
Emma White's production design is simple yet very effective. Creating a split stage with one half being a living room, the other Sam's bedroom, the divide between Sam and her family is made clear without being blatant. The walls, for the most part, were left blank to make room for projection, curated by video designers Lucca Barone-Peters and Suzie Henderson. The videos looked and sounded like genuine old school home videos, creating that sense of memory. As Sam watches on a TV, the audience sees the image projected onto the stage which creates an interesting visual dynamic, similarly to the live feed video actors film on stage. Lighting by Kelsey Lee added great visual dynamics to the space, for example, using lamps as light sources forcing an interesting and real view on the space.
Homesick is exquisite. It's really as simple as that. A work that is moving and passionate, Sally Alrich-Smyth has given us something that will be remembered. With every aspect at the top of its game, the show comes together flawlessly, and soars. Homesick is a must-see for any Sydneysider, playing at the Old 505 in Newtown from October 8-12 as part of the Freshworks Femme program.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.