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Home Inverness

Created and directed by Scott Graham
Evanton Industrial Estate, near Inverness
(2006)

Home Inverness publicity image

Home Inverness is one of ten performances marking the launch of the National Theatre of Scotland, with ten directors simultaneously developing work across the country on the theme of 'Home'. Given that the National Theatre of Scotland has fiercely resisted a building-based identity, the concept of 'Home' is a pertinent place to begin, provoking thoughts about what this newly established theatre is - and what it can be - as well as raising broader questions about national identity.

Home Inverness was created and directed by Scott Graham, artistic director of the Welsh-based company, Frantic Assembly, renowned for their overtly physical style of work. This physical approach dominated Home Inverness, sometimes resulting in stunning visual images but occasionally lapsing into unnecessary repetitiveness.

The performance - a promenade piece - took place in a hangar-style building on an industrial estate and, at the start, the audience were led into a confined space where a female performer assumed the role of estate agent, the spectators being prospective buyers. As she describes details of the property, some of the more absurd touches of dialogue are reinforced by the arrival of a second performer who ignores the first and begins to bang loudly on a door behind her, demanding to be let in.

Shortly after, the room is plunged into darkness and when visibility returns, the original sense of claustrophobia is replaced by the revelation of a much more expansive space. A sequence of snapshot tableaux places performers in a variety of different groupings with a sofa (emblematic of domesticity) in the background. This photographic technique relates to to the creative impetus behind the work: 'a series of specially created photographs of local families in their own homes.' [Programme Notes] But if domestic ordinariness formed the starting point of the devising process, the actual performance is concerned with elevating the familiar above the mundane through playful choreography, surrealist nuances and physical energy.

For example, the daily ritual of TV watching was given an original edge through stylised, sometimes acrobatic, movement involving all six performers (three men and three women). A boisterous interaction occurred in which the sofa was the focus of attention and the source of conflict as different bodies flung themselves against it. Out of this routine, three couples emerged. While two pairs engaged in vigorous and highly comic copulation, one couple remained on the sofa and made more cautious attempts to connect. Whether physically close or not, the scene hinted at a theme that ran through the production: isolation or the failure of communication.

This idea was most powerfully presented in a scene in which mobile phones - symbolic of our multiple means of communication - acquired an evocative centrality within the physical score. Here, the source of lighting emanated from the tiny mobile screens as each performer used the handset as the sole focus of their physical and emotional expression. Similarly, the spoken words indicated disconnection, disappointment and disillusion.

The use of lighting here, as at other times, had distinctly filmic qualities and this was enhanced by the way in which the space was gradually unfolded to the audience and the use of different staging levels. Sometimes, the audience's gaze was led upwards to a couple arguing or to a club-like mezzanine in which dance combined with words to imply infidelity. At other times, the gaze might be redirected to a lighted window behind which we witness a couple whose everyday closeness would usually remain unseen.

The actor-audience relationship was playfully explored towards the end when a performer with a camera invited members of the audience into her space. Posing together, she took photos and talked of the possibility of other relationships and other lives. A blurring of gender boundaries also occurred, a device used within the performance. While the couples were initially defined in heterosexual terms, later these disintegrated in dance routines in which the identity and sexuality of the performers changed from moment to moment.

Home Inverness explored ways of looking and ways of seeing. In a final scene, the performance was framed as a TV programme and this was followed by a series of photos projected on a screen. Some showed 'real' families and others the performers. In the photographs were other photographs, either held or displayed, suggesting a never-ending process of representation.

The notion of 'home' in this performance was one in which the familiar acquired unfamiliar qualities. 'Home' - which evokes the idea of stability - became a fluid and ever-changing terrain.The heart of the story was quite simple: relationships form and fall apart. But the creation of poignant physical and verbal landscapes was an inventive way of telling this story anew.

Reviewer: Lizzie Eldridge