Lockdown review: Unfamiliar at Home (ArtsDepot)

Set within the home of performers/partners Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou, Unfamiliar has had a long development process dealing with the plan for the two men to welcome a baby into their lives.

Three cameras show us the floor, the lounge, and the kitchen. An additional phone camera allows us even closer. Guided by “outside eye” Mikhail Karikis and movement director Rhiannon Faith, the couple bring an intimate, open and partly improvised show to Zoom.

Although at some points both Esses and Petrou speak into static microphones, they also (as explained in the post-show Q&A) wear radio mics which allow a more naturalistic use of their familiar space.

Scene from Unfamiliar at Home

Now and again we hear voice recordings, of themselves and others. Homophobia, heteronormity, and the doubt in self that any prospective parent might have is explored. Ordinary tasks are performed, intimate moments of everyday closeness are observed.

Esses is the more talkative and outwardly confident of the two, with Petrou a less natural performer. Together they have created an honest fusion of text, music tracks, movement and props which is both personal and political.

Being queer in today’s world, when one of you is from a country where just being yourself is illegal. Dealing with doctors, friends, and strangers who express opinions on your wish and right to be fathers. Adoption vs surrogacy, and the worry of what your child might grow up to be.

Scene from Unfamiliar at Home

This is a moving, if occasionally self-indulgent autobiographical piece reimagined as a piece for us to join and watch without any expectation of joining in or contributing. We watch a changing narrative from the perspective of two different people sharing the same space.

Seeing the piece from several angles is liberating: one window is largely the couple’s feet until they lie on the floor. Your gaze can be where you want it to be, albeit still planned and curated in those three spaces.

Unfamiliar is a sensitive piece of work which explores a facet of queerness and masculinity we do not often see. During lockdown theatre has produced tales of expectant mothers, but this is the first time I have watched the journey – a little scared, excited perhaps, but with no regrets – of expectant fathers heading for the meeting that will bring them a much-wanted child.

This production has been streaming in conjunction with a variety of venues. Tonight’s was ArtsDepot, tomorrow’s final performance at 7.30pm is with The Place in Bedford and Cambridge Junction.

Book at https://www.theplacebedford.org.uk/shows/unfamiliar-at-home/ or https://www.junction.co.uk/unfamiliar-at-home. Tickets cost from £8.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Unfamiliar at Home.

Images: Victor Esses

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