This Queer House
Reviewed – 28th February 2020
“takes audiences on an unpredictable and ultimately fulfilling journey to self-discovery”
“This Queer House” is a delightfully strange, unique take on the contact zones between queer lives, history, and the non-queer world at large. It (mostly) avoids trite observations and instead uses symbolism and striking imagery to make its point about space, place and identity.
In Oakley Flanagan’s explosive and challenging script, a young queer couple, Oli (Liv Ello) and Leah (Humaira Iqbal), move into a house inherited by a dead uncle. But the house has a history. A male builder (Lucia Young) is called in to do some renovation work and the disruption does more than just alter the house. In a series of scenes, the house’s legacy is unleashed, branding itself on the queer pair trying to live their new life together: the expectations of owning property, gender roles, and questions of conformity arise as the house slowly gets messier and messier. Will the couple survive this interrogation with the past? You’ll have to see it to find out.
Directed by Masha Kevinovna of the OPIA Collective, this piece’s strengths lie in the montage that takes up the second half of the production. Taking us through the history of the house in disconnected moments, sometimes with text, sometimes without, Kevinovna conjures the dreamy landscape of memory and history. Young, playing multiple roles, is stunning to watch, and here is given license to really go for it. From South London builder to rigid 50s housewife, Young is physically precise, loud, clear, in control and unpredictable. It’s their performance that keeps this play such an exciting watch.
As the piece slips away from the conventional opening few scenes, Ben Ramsden’s compelling, unsettling score is also given time to shine. Reminiscent of Bernard Herrman’s work on “Psycho”, Ben twists the action towards the horrific, indeed the melodramatic, but nonetheless keeps building up the feeling of dread. Cara Evans’ design is similarly effective. The house is white tape, with wooden window and door frames dotted in the corners. The tape poses as a boundary, but of course is easily traversed, altered. There is a real sense of cohesion between all aspects of this production which is what makes watching so strangely compelling.
Iqbal and Ello don’t quite gel as a couple on stage and both need to relax and settle into the characters more as the run goes on. That aside, this was an intriguing night at the theatre. By being daring with form and content, “This Queer House” takes audiences on an unpredictable and ultimately fulfilling journey to self-discovery.
Reviewed by Robert Frisch
Photography by Tara Rooney