The Home: Durational Stay

Christopher Green
The Albany, Entelechy Arts and Christopher Green, in association with ARC Stockton, Future Arts Centres and Saitama Arts Theatre
Goldsmiths College, London

Mr Green from Head Office (Christopher Green in The Orangery) Credit: Sandra Giorgetti
Your needs, your care, your way Credit: Sandra Giorgetti
Sandra with Lucy Jane Parkinson and her alter ego sock puppet Credit: Sandra Giorgetti

For this year's Age Against the Machine Festival, award-winning theatre maker Christopher Green has created the audacious and confrontational The Home, an extended work looking into residential care.

Billed as "entertaining and provocative" it was both - and a great deal more - for the thirty participants who gave up their weekend to be care home residents in this 48-hour immersive theatre piece.

The conceit was that we participants had enrolled for a taster weekend in a care home to experience the best and worst of life in the sort of facility in which we might one day find ourselves.

In reality—but fictional reality—it was a two-day sales pitch for The Home, a corporation running a chain of residential care venues and for its private insurance plan that you could invest in to fund your future care.

In real reality, it was powerfully felt and a compelling call to arms.

24 hours away from The Home and The Home, I am still processing the experience and emerging from a dreamlike brainwashing.

For all that we were in digs at Goldsmith's College and The Home managers and care team were actors led by Green as the interfering executive from head office, the experience was intentionally and successfully deeply challenging. It promised to blur lines and it did so in spades.

Impeccably researched and minutely detailed in its delivery, it was impossible to resist The Home, or The Home.

Comfortingly lulled by lots of opportunity to chat, communal eating and an extremely fun sing-a-long on the first evening, our inhibitions dropped quickly and we started to relax, form alliances and gel as a community.

However, TRs' (Taster Residents) dis/comfort was individually tailored—if you didn’t look sufficiently fazed by having to wee in a cup whilst care workers Lucy and trainee Dalal waited (hopefully not actually listening), then the heat got cranked up a notch.

We were served hand and foot in an atmosphere of care and invisibly applied authority. We learnt our place from confident voices telling us what to do and from subtle public belittlings.

And we were gently pressured into signing up for the insurance plan—a new signing being celebrated by the staff grooving to a chorus of "We Are Family".

By our very nature, the TR participants (who were chosen from a self-selected group of interested applicants) were no shrinking violets and yet we marvelled at the ease and speed with which we relinquished control and gave up our voices.

Complaining amongst ourselves about having to rush meals was easy; seeing staff mistreated by management was not, and yet not one of us said a thing.

But revolution was on its way and I am still unravelling what happened next.

When a TR unmasked themselves as a plant-provocateur, the revelation broke the spell abruptly and completely. Reactions ranged from disbelief to personal hurt: it could be the most raw audience reaction I have yet experienced.

When the bombshell dropped, we had scattered emotionally and physically. We no longer knew where we were. For me, Sunday's closing tea party was like the twilight zone, my real words being replied to in character by the care team even though the fourth wall was in splinters. Retrospectively, I can see that some of the cast would not yet have understood the impact of X's unmasking.

Throughout, the cast had been excellent. They were engaging and improvised artfully to facilitate the desired outcome, seemingly natural but giving nuanced performances that varied between participants.

When the TRs said our goodbyes to the cast with thank yous and many hugs, they appeared not so dissimilar to their characters—comfortingly it hadn’t all been "an act".

My head is still in a bit of a mess and who am I to say something profound about our care system, but I keep thinking about that poem that ends "Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me."

Sandra kept a 'journal of sorts' during her stay at The Home.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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