by Lynn on September 27, 2021

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person in the courtyard of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery District, Toronto, Ont. Plays until Oct. 3, 2021.

Co-creator and performer, Akosua Amo-Adem

Co-creator and performer, Qasim Khan

Co-creator and performer, Cheyenne Scott

Co-director and dramaturg, Keith Barker

Co-director and dramaturg, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster,

Co-director and dramaturg, Paolo Santalucia

Production designer, Jareth Li

Sound Designer, David Deleary

The co-directors and dramaturgs of The Home Project asked their co-creators/performers, “What is home for you?” While the three directors (Keith Barker, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and Paolo Santalucia) are listed as ‘co-directors’ I don’t get the sense that they all collaborated on directing all three pieces, anymore than I don’t get the sense that all three ‘co-creators’ worked on each other’s’ pieces—seems like an awful lot of creating and directing by committee.  But I could be wrong.

The three co-creators and performers: Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan and Cheyenne Scott all presented a different take on the question “What is home for you?”  Qasim Khan remembers his boyhood home in Newmarket and how he loved living there. Now as a grown man he is helping his widowed mother move from that home. He’s in the garage sneaking a cigarette, fearful his mother will find him smoking, as if he’s still a kid. She calls him (by his name) several times. He replies he’s in the garage but he has that tone of someone still afraid his mother will find him doing something wrong.

His parents kept all sorts of things from his childhood to they could pass them on to him when he married and had children. Qasim Khan tells us he’s gay—he’s never having children. You sense he never shared that information with his parents. He has been looking for a plush toy he loved as a kid and seems to have lost in that house. That’s all he wants. He sees two rugs his late father hoisted up and placed in the upper reaches of the garage. Much time is spent wondering how his father got the stuff up there and how can he get them down.

Qasim Khan is an animated performer in his piece. His performance could have used close attention to pace, nuance and subtlety. Words gushed out of him and I thought a lot of the humour and detail was lost because of the quickness of it all. He needed a strong director to rein in all that exuberance.

The gifted Akosua Amo-Adem told her story of home through a character named Adwa Opoku, a stand-up comedienne. Adwa Opoku came to Canada from Ghana when she was five years old (as Akosua Amo-Adem did). She talks about the frightening wonders that greeted her family when they arrived at Pearson Airport—an escalator. What to make of a moving staircase that seemed to disappear into the air at the top? The family was terrified of it. Adwa Opoku talked of trying to fit in and being self-conscious when she was younger. She loved the Backstreet Boys and put up a poster in her bedroom to her mother’s horror. She talked of the challenging times of just ordering a Starbucks coffee because the baristas got her name wrong. Adwa Opoku didn’t make it easy for them either. She spelled it but the edge in the tone was obvious. Adwa Opoku is a woman comfortable in Canada but also of the world of Ghana because of her family. She is pulled in both directions.

Akosua Amo-Adem establishes this duality nicely and presents her sense of home on a broader scale than Qasim Khan whose idea of home is his childhood house and things in it that gave him comfort. But I found the idea of the stand-up comedienne’s show a bit rough around the edges. There seemed to be a lot of dead air in Opoku’s comedy set. There was a bit of less than successful comedic business when Opoku called for a chair and she was brought first  a child’s chair and then a high stool. The story of home and being pulled in two directions is important and needs to be dealt with in a way that is not diminished by a comedy routine that is not really funny.  

Cheyenne Scott created the most successful piece of the three. She represented an Indigenous woman (Cheyenne Scott is Indigenous) who had lost her spirit and she set about trying to find it. I’ve been lucky enough to hear Indigenous stories and champion and support Indigenous Theatre  over the past several years and if anything is true, it’s that Scott’s story is not just of a woman looking for her lost spirit. I think her story is a metaphor for the loss of the spirit of the world in terms of upheaval in nature.  There was use of video projections on the back wall of crashing waves on the west coast that destroyed property. She told of fish trying to get home and failing. She talked of birds that succumbed to polluted air. A fox floated leisurely in a swimming pool. Cheyenne Scott also sang and looped harmonies of her own voice. I thought her piece was impressive and more successful in talking about home in a way that we can all embrace because she was talking about the home in which we all live—the earth and the troubled waters around it and the harm of climate change.

Most important, The Home Project got us to think about what home means to us too. I’m sure all three examples had resonance with the audience.

Originated by The Howland Company, in partnership with Native Earth Performing Arts and Presented by Soulpepper.

Plays until Oct. 3, 2021.

Running Time: 1 hour approx.

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