Category Archives: Reviews

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

★★★★

Soho Theatre

WELCOME HOME at the Soho Theatre

★★★★

Welcome Home

“Hudson’s great success with “Welcome Home” is that it’s spectacular, silly and provocative”

 

Headlines in the media over the past few days about the Church of England and its debate over same sex marriage and relationships mean Willy Hudson’s brave and absorbing new solo show could hardly be more timely.

“Welcome Home” is from one perspective a mad rant about religion and an institution that has so frequently heaped shame on queer life, an attempt to heal (or escape from) a past of hurt.

But an autobiographical and uncomfortable show just mouthing off on the subject would become little more than a heavy soapbox speech or ill-informed Twitter comment.

And in fact when the energetic and often chaotic show is stripped down it is not ultimately as negative as you may be expecting. There’s a sense that if we actually bothered to listen to each other and attempt to understand rather than judge (a truth for all sides) then we may just be able to build a better present and future.

The springboard to the memoir is Hudson’s break-up with the boyfriend we were introduced to in “Bottom” and returning home to live with his parents, which leads to a plethora of thoughts about his upbringing, his local church and Robbie Williams.

Hudson’s great success with “Welcome Home” is that it’s spectacular, silly and provocative, using sci-fi, music, and humour to address break-up of relationships, break-up with the past, break-up with unyielding establishment – and putting yourself back together as a result.

“This is the making of me” he proclaims at the start and what results after 80 frantic minutes is a deeply personal tale of honesty and discovery on what for many will be a shared journey – even if the destination isn’t the same for all.

As both writer and performer Hudson could be in danger of becoming manically inward-looking as he seeks to demolish childhood nightmares and establishment edifices but director Zach James keeps him the right side of demonic.

If Hudson’s last show, “Bottom,” was revealing and buttock-clenching and performed more in a cabaret style, this is altogether more theatrically entertaining, determined and heart-wrenching. “Welcome Home” is certainly more a narrative of dark nightmare revenge than its predecessor’s pink fluffiness with a whiff of leather.

There’s as much here for the geeky as the cheeky: Doctor Who’s weeping angels stand like sentinels threatening to send the performer back in time if he fails to learn important lessons, while “Star Wars” references lead to an unexpected and heart-warming finale.

Anna Orton’s set and costume design add elements of nerdy kitsch and it’s clear that a lot of people have contributed to the success of this solo work. It is terrific to see the large company listed on the programme, a bunch of creatives given the chance to develop queer, neurodivergent and working class productions.

A review always runs the risk of becoming purely academic assessment so it must be stressed that Hudson aims to raise laughs as much as raising important questions. For all the moments of nervous seat-shuffling there are plenty of slices of mad comedy.

Hard-hitting with dashes of discomfort sitting alongside the comic, “Welcome Home” is likely to mirror the experiences of many who want to rage against a religious and all too often uncaring machine, but Hudson succeeds in giving his story and performance a heart and a hope.

 

Reviewed on 30th January 2023

by David Guest

Photography by Harry Elletson

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

An Evening Without Kate Bush | ★★★★ | February 2022
Y’Mam | ★★★★ | May 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | July 2022
Oh Mother | ★★★★ | July 2022
Super High Resolution | ★★★ | November 2022
We Were Promised Honey! | ★★★★ | November 2022
Le Gateau Chocolat: A Night at the Musicals | ★★★★ | January 2023

 

Click here to read all our latest reviews

 

Butchered

Butchered

★★★★

VAULT Festival

BUTCHERED at the VAULT Festival

★★★★

Butchered

“simply a very good horror story”

 

Whilst the Vault tunnels have been home to all sorts over the years, there’s no doubt that its truest form is horror; the dark interiors, cold brick walls dripping with condensation, the thud-thud-thud of occasional trains overhead. What else could you ask for to be put in the mood for terror-striking blood and gore?

Expial Atrocious’s Butchered seems especially fitting given it takes place deep underground, below the greedy, glutinous Top Steps. Master Sausage works day and night to make string upon string of sausages, never able to sate their faceless employer. But one day, they’re sent an eager wide-eyed novice, who insists on asking the questions Master Sausage can’t bear to hear: Why are you here? Who were you before? What do you really want?

There’s a temptation to see this as a wider metaphor, particularly with Master Sausage’s idolisation of their monstrous meat grinder, and their self-inflicted incuriosity about those making the orders upstairs. But if you start doing that, it gets a bit too lofty and takes away from what’s simply a very good horror story.

Directors and performers Nic Lawton and Ezre Holland have clearly worked together a long time, perfectly in sync, both comedically and physically: As the audience files in, Lawton and Holland perform a sort of butchery ballet on repeat, slicing the meat open, cutting a chunk off, feeding it to the dreaded grinder, mushing in some other ingredients, stuffing it in to a casing, and passing it upstairs. This is repeated throughout, showing the physical labour of the job as well as its utter tedium, and it’s actually quite beautiful to watch.

Considering the only real prop is a metal bowl filled with pink silly putty, Butchered is exceedingly gory, and I find myself, sat on the front row, strenuously grimacing and trying to sit as far back on my pew as possible. As with all horror stories whose prime intent is to make you squirm, the story is a bit silly, but Lawton and Holland are skilled at bringing enough humour to make it self-aware, whilst also committing to the gothic grimness. There’s quite a bit of plot being only hinted at or so quickly explained I’m not sure I’ve got it all, and if it were any longer, I might require further narrative explanation. But at 50 minutes, it’s just right.

 

Reviewed on 28th January 2023

by Miriam Sallon

 

Vault Festival 2023

 

Other Shows reviewed at VAULT Festival:

 

Caceroleo | ★★★★ | January 2023
Cybil Service | ★★★★ | January 2023
Intruder | ★★★★ | January 2023

 

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