With the ‘lights up’ and the sound of Home Made’s curtain call applause I was left flummoxed. At 45 minutes it is just a snippet of a play, unexpectedly short and sweet and definitely enjoyable, but it does leave you wanting more.
The First Floor production follows a day in the life of a cast of three – Marissa (Hayley Considine), Luanna (Leah Chillery) and Alvin (Kyle Futers) – whom, snowed ito a Nottingham office, share the burdens of their tragic pasts with one another as “with each breaking of [Marissa’s home-baked] bread a new story is told”. The play opens with a peculiar mix of mime and music, as the three characters perform dance-esque routines before they disperse into their more formal roles. Although an interesting technique its significance is somewhat lost by the end of the play as it fails to interweave itself into the main narrative. However, mime, music and props work brilliantly and much more convincingly in the retelling of their respective stories of domestic abuse, the loss of a child and parental deprecation on what otherwise would have been a very static stage setting. It is just a shame that these backgrounds are only touched upon: you can’t help but want to dig a little deeper.
First Floor is a theatre company whose, one night and one night only, experimental performance was sponsored by the Nottingham Playhouse to “explore cross-cultural dialogue and community cohesion through innovative theatre making”. This, for me, was one of the most charming aspects of the piece. Held in the much hidden rehearsal room of the Playhouse theatre the setting is quaint and simple reflecting the intimacy of the characters on stage. The audience’s attention was best captured by Leah Chillery, who played Luanna, drawing both pathos and laughs from adults and children alike on more than one occasion, with her loud but loveable personality. By creating characters from Polish, Russian and Brazilian backgrounds in a Nottingham setting, writers Rachael Young and Alison Garner allow for a demographic and cultural cross-section that is sure to identify with and draw-in most members of an audience.
It is hard to put your finger on how exactly it does, but the play definitely fosters a strong community feel. Although the performance could perhaps be extended, the plot developed and some techniques further explored, it remains an emotional, enrapturing show throughout. The writers are ambitious in Home Made to just the right amount and their characters have an undeniable chemistry, yet they never try to masquerade it as a polished performance. Instead, as the last few claps died down audience members were invited to share their thoughts and critiques of the play on post-it notes on the theatre wall. It is this balance of professionalism, experimentation and community cooperation that also pervades the play and makes it so watchable, tangible and, most importantly, likeable.