WELCOME HOME at the Soho Theatre
“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: