The Home Project
Originated by the Howland Company in Partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and Presented by Soulpepper
A most welcome return to live theatre in the Distillery District presented an existential question in the outdoor courtyard next to the Young Centre, home of Soulpepper and George Brown Theatre School.
What is home for you?
Did the theatre gods of Soulpepper, The Howland Company and Native Earth Performing Arts deliver cool high winds and a light pelting rain to provide a twenty-minute delay on this opening night to emphasize the importance of this question? Possibly from a pathetic fallacy interpretation, but the outside rain didn’t bother me as emails sent out earlier advised to be prepared for the changing weather by dressing appropriately as the evenings are cool. Remember to do so as I felt sorry for the two guests whom I saw wearing shorts and light sweaters.
Three stalwart Toronto companies have pooled together to examine what the press release calls: “a collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and intimate theatrical experience centred on the theme of home and how our relationships with it have changed or evolved. Building upon these creators’ memories, associations, and reflections, The Home Project combines live performance, sound, and digital media installation, examining how we are shaped by what we call home.”
‘What is home for you?’ is that rhetorical question much along the same line of ‘What is love for you?’ We can give examples and samples and recall stories and memories of ‘home’, but it is difficult to define the answers to both questions because I don’t believe you can. And that’s the strong appeal of ‘The Home Project’ because co-creators and performers Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan and Cheyenne Scott don’t even attempt to define because it isn’t necessary.
Through stories, songs, reflections, and anecdotes, these three undaunted artists didn’t allow the outdoor winds and rain of opening night to quell their memories of what home means to them. Instead, they narrated their engaging stories with incredibly passionate drive and verve that I completely ignored the outside weather and focused on the stories.
The outside stage was a riser replete with assorted boxes of all sizes, and a standing microphone. Since we are listening to three very distinct stories of home, sound clarity was of utmost importance especially since the opening night audience sat through the windstorm so David Deleary must be acknowledged for maintaining quality control. As co-directors and dramaturgs Keith Barker, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and Paolo Santalucia held the responsible task somehow to connect these individual stories together. In their Programme Notes, the three of them spoke of how they were struck by the ephemerality of home in that ‘different places of rest each home creates, holds true in that particular moment in time; [but] will it all still hold true in a year, five or a decade from now.
At least in this particular moment for me, Messrs. Barker and Santalucia and Ms. Lancaster successfully wove together stories of ‘home’ that included laughter, poignancy, music, memories, and song. Before the performance begins, the audience is reminded that we are experiencing each show on traditional lands of the Indigenous peoples. A charismatic Cheyenne Scott graciously reminded me of this reality with her fascinating vocalizations of song and music of the Indigenous people. Her story of the sacredness of animals and their connection to humans nobly indicated how much I still must learn more about these stories of the peoples who were here before I was.
Akosua Amo-Adem offers a completely different take on her story of home as a Ghanian Canadian. Her amusing comic set in the ‘Turtle Island Comedy Club’ allowed me to have a few laughs as she managed never to cross the line in some of her ‘adult’ humour double-entendres regarding her race (although she did come close a few times). She kept reminding the audience as she was dabbing her eyes periodically that she wasn’t crying but the howling winds made her eyes water. I don’t want to spoil the conclusion of her comic set but there was a stirring poignancy within Akosua as she spoke of her home country of Ghana.
Qasim Khan finely captured both humour and pathos in his performance as the son who’s packing up boxes from his mother’s home as she is moving. He recalls the death of his father while he speaks to us and looks around at the mess of boxes trying to decide what to pack and what needs to be pitched. At one point, he describes two rugs hanging in such a natural and believable manner that I looked up as well as I wanted to see what they looked like.
Qasim asked the audience to raise their hands if they could envision what the carpets looked like. I didn’t raise my hand then; however, Qasim, I am now as I saw two elegantly ornate rugs hanging from the ceiling in my mind. Like Akosua’s performance near the end, Qasim also holds a conversation with his dead father that is quite touching and moving. Once again, I don’t want to spoil here what the conversation is all about, but it involves a four-word sentence. When Qasim hears that sentence from his father, I thought I could see a tear in the corner of his eye. An appropriate conclusion.
Final Comments: ‘The Home Project’ is a welcome return home to live theatre in Toronto’s Distillery District especially considering all the social changes and movements of the last eighteen months.
Running time approximately 80 minutes
Production runs to October 3, 2021, in the courtyard of the Young Centre in Toronto’s Distillery District, 50 Tank House Lane.
To purchase tickets, please visit www.youngcentre.ca.
THE HOME PROJECT
Originated by The Howland Company in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and Presented by Soulpepper
Co-Creators and Performers: Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan, Cheyenne Scott
Co-Directors and Dramaturgs: Keith Barker, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster, Paolo Santalucia
Dramaturg: Isaac Thomas
Sound Designer: David Deleary
Production Designer: Jareth Li
Stage Manager: Sam Hale
Loop Pedal Consultant: Gregory Prest
Head Scenic Artist: Paul Boddum
Head of Props: Lisa Nighswander
Head Carpenter: Andy Devries
Head of Wardrobe: Alessia Urbani
Head Venue Technican and Lighting Op: Ashton Vetter
Audio Engineer and Sound Op: Jason Browning