NO PLACE LIKE HOME at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
“fresh, unique and totally compelling”
No Place Like Home, written and performed by Alex Roberts, fuses music, dance, spoken word and video design to explore gay club culture and the impact of shame on queer identity and community. Roberts performs a visceral, lyrical text, telling the story of young gay man Connor who meets Rob, an older gay guy who works on the bar at a local club. Connor is fresh to the scene with less experience and is looking for guidance. Maybe Rob will be able to help with that. But having a healthy relationship with your sexuality and even potential partners is hard when the spaces you need are difficult to find.
Roberts’ text is beautifully nuanced, witty, funny and deeply emotional. He practically sings through parts of it, creating a lovely rapport with the audience. This pays off hugely as the story progresses and things become darker; more vulnerable. By the end of the show, Roberts’ face is smudged with tears; the music, movement and story all build to a difficult climax. Still, there is ambiguity in the text, and the show is less a preachy message singing to the converted, rather instead exploring the complexities of queer sex culture.
Video sometimes feels like an add-on, or a replacement for set which doesn’t always work, but that’s definitely not the case here. Virginie Taylor’s video design in this is superb. It’s a vital part of the storytelling. Human bodies dance and rave, immersing Roberts in the club space, with flashes of neon-coloured lights and sparkles. Roberts effortlessly transitions between the two central characters, the flick of his cap and adjustments to his voice and body language making the switch. Connor is light and vulnerable. Rob is tougher, more grounded and confident.
Underneath the smoke, and Jac Cooper’s electric sound design and composition, is an exploration of the play’s title; a question of what or where is home, as we witness Connor’s attempt to find it. At one moment, during the club’s stripping contest, Roberts removes his shorts and jacket to reveal a Dorothy dress underneath. The imagery of Dorothy clicking her heels appears at another moment, projected onto the background. It’s a clear motif that runs really nicely throughout the show.
At the risk of telling a story that’s been told many times before, Roberts avoids this by presenting something fresh, unique and totally compelling. He’s a brilliant storyteller, and the blend of artforms in this show makes it very special indeed.
Reviewed 10th August 2022
by Joseph Winer
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