Home Free is the story of Joanna (Bianca Butler Reynolds) and Lawrence (James Elliott), two naive and vulnerable adults nested in the safety of their hide away home. There is something more sinister, however, about the relationship shared between these two sheltered souls. The pair are evidently in love and Joanna is visibly pregnant, but it becomes unsettlingly apparent that the two are also incestuous siblings.
The work flips from comforting memories of one’s childhood to confronting content discussing isolation, delusion, and incest. Playwright Lanford Wilson constructs characters who meander their way from a pair of siblings playing and teasing to a squabbling married couple not only throughout the course of the show, but more remarkably within each scene. The two actors bring a grace and ease to their characters, always managing to transition between fun, fear and frustration naturally. With choices that are believable and seamless, the work flows in a way that exposes the characters’ unconventional existence, yet manages to keep everything functioning and translatable.
Elliott’s portrayal of Lawrence is confident, charismatic and charming. His milling around during the pre-show entrance is warm and welcoming, with a respect and tenderness that keeps the audience eager, rather than alienating them with either an invasion of personal space or forced interaction (both of which I have experience a fair bit during this festival). Elliott’s true power is in his ability to dart freely between child-like energy, heartbreaking anxiety, and horrifying aggression all in a few beats. Reynolds matches Elliott in all of these areas, however her character is more relatable due to a closer connection with the outside world and a welcomed hesitance to the more disturbing expressions of love between the siblings. Reynolds is strong in voice and presence, yet her character is gradually weakened and easily defeated. Whether this is due to her inpenetrable loyalty and love for her brother, or her heavily pregnant body, Reynolds carries her character’s complexities with an empowering determination and understandable vulnerability.
With this in mind, it would seem that Joanna would be the more dominant and mature of the two, however the two characters humour each other equally through their mutual love for living in child-like denial. With no director, I can only praise the prowess of these two performers and their activation of the text as an unrelenting pair. The choices made with the space, their control over their emotions and character, and most importantly their confident hold over both their characters’ relationship and the complex text, are all elegant, effective and engaging.
The space is stuffed with props and set items that scream childhood cubby house with the easily misunderstood siblings, not to mention their imaginary friends, inhabiting it perfectly. A few simple yet creative set choices amped up the space’s clinical white walls and creaky wooden floors to create a world that is so comforting one could almost relate to Lawrence’s choice to never leave. With clever set devices such as a rug hanging against a wall to portray a doorway, a hand made ferris wheel placed close to the metro arts window, and dozens of colouring in books, games and activities for audience members to interact with if they choose, my initial skepticism about a theatre space being used in the anywhere festival was quickly washed away.
Home Free’s story is timeless, shocking and endearing. The performances are powerful, playful and praiseworthy, and the production is an excellent contribution to the Anywhere festival. Foundry Theatre continues to enhance its productions, expand its horizons, and embrace its diversity. Home Free is unsettling, heartwarming and tear jerking; everything I love about contemporary theatre combined. It is definitely worth the journey up the four flights of stairs! I look forward to what the company have in store for their audience’s next.
– Written by Rhumer Diball May 19th 2016
HOME FREE PRESENTED BY FOUNDRY THEATRE COMPANY AND ANYWHERE FESTIVAL.
WED 18– SUN 22 MAY, 2016.
Photo credit Callum Pulsford.