Just to the left of centre, but endearingly universal, sits Home, the new production from the Nest Ensemble, and the latest addition to the La Boite Indie season. There are many astonishing parts to the production, not least of which is that Home is the second outing for the Nest Ensemble in the last six months. It was only in May that they premiered Eve as part of Metro Arts Independents. For those that see both, it represents an interesting discussion about the difference between the two venues and their indie programs.
Home premiered last year with Metro Arts. I didn’t catch it then, but I’m grateful to see it now. The premise is simple. Margi Brown Ash tells us stories from her life as an actor, wife and mother. She travels to Egypt, New York, Sydney and Brisbane. At the heart of every tale are questions of belonging. These are stories you want to hear.
The production’s unique triumph, however, is in its tone. This is an incredibly friendly show. The audience are invited on stage to participate in the drama, playing various people from Margi’s life. As an audience, we are constantly being drawn in and comforted. Without ever being melodramatic or didactic, Ms. Brown Ash opens herself up with extreme honesty to share some wonderfully intimate memories. The lasting affect is that of having visited an old friend. It’s a most pleasurable evening.
Needless to say, Ms Ash’s performance here is stunning. Memories that are potentially decades apart or barely connected are brought together unquestioningly by her performance. The audience is never lost or confused for a moment. We literally holds hands with the performer and the message is powerful. ‘Your story is my story,’ is the continually echoed peace anthem of the show.
The only interruptions to the stream of story-telling are a variety of monologues from co-performer and musician Travis Ash (Margi Brown Ash’s son), who calls voices from all over the world into the story. While the device is potentially powerful, it only seemed to serve as an unwanted distraction from the central story of the play.
Travis Ash’s live music, however, is wonderfully integrated and his sound design overall is a fine addition. Bev Jensen’s design is staggeringly good and unlike anything I’ve encountered before. AV is incorporated seamlessly and bounces off Ben Hughes’ lighting design. Of all Mr. Hughes’ lighting designs, well known to Brisbane theatre-goers, this is possibly my favourite. It furthers the piece’s intention and imbues the space with warmth. It’s an absolute delight to watch and proves that Mr. Hughes’ is an absolutely first-class lighting designer.
In a city that’s already confused about the difference between professional and independent, Home looks, feels, and sounds like a mainstage production. Go and see it. You’ll leave uplifted and proud of Brisbane. Book quickly, as I predict tickets will soon be very hard to find.
(Ed: Are we really still confused about this? I wonder.)