Home Is Where… at Camden People’s Theatre

photos by Charlie Kerson

Home Is Where… is finally real! After two years of collecting interviews, planning, networking, thinking, dreaming, applying, struggling to articulate what exactly this project might become, and finding the right team to create it, Hyphenated became a 9-strong ensemble with a 20-minute first stab at a brand new piece of theatre.

Huge thanks to Camden People’s Theatre for including us in their Whose London Is It Anyway festival, and to supporters Mike Carter, Megan Cohen, Kristin Davis, Beatie Edney, Susie Italiano, Ross McNamara, Paige Rogers, Carolyn Power, Kate Tasker, Michael Tasker, ArtsEd, Hornsey Town Hall, and Kings Place Music Foundation for helping to make our first performance possible.

It’s almost indescribable, the thrill of seeing an idea come to life, of finally sharing with an audience the thing that’s only existed in your imagination until now. It’s an unbelievable gift from my collaborators, who have not only jumped on board with this ambitious project, but made it even more exciting and alive than I first imagined.

We started with some questions: is there a thread that connects Third Culture stories? What does it feel like to tell those stories to TCKs and non-TCKs? How do music and movement contribute to the theatricality of these stories, and relate to the sharing of culture? How can 9 new collaborators, with 9 different hybrid identities, develop a shared language for performance?

The devising and rehearsal process brings up even more questions, often more tangible, more specific ones, like exactly which interviews are we going to use, and who is going to say those words? In a short piece, is it more important to include as many stories as possible, or to give the audience a chance to follow individual characters? What does it mean to cast our actors across race and gender – for example asking an Indian-Scottish man to play a Sardinian woman? The piece is about the connections among cross-culture experiences – so does cross-casting support this idea, or is it confusing for an audience? How might the interviewees feel about being portrayed by someone who looks nothing like them?

And then as we get towards the end of rehearsals, the questions become very technical: how do we edit these audio clips together into one track so that the ending section is not all about pressing play at the right time – about 20 audio clips from various interviews flowing one after the other. And then how do we get all 5 performers to press play at the same time so that their combined audio track is synced up.

What is it like for the cast in that final section, to be hearing the original interview audio through their headphones, listening to their fellow performer repeating the interview verbatim a second or two later, improvising a physical response to the words and Yaiza Varona’s evocative original music… and keeping an ear out for their cue to start speaking? (Answer: it’s almost impossible, and yet they do it beautifully because they are super stars.)

Finally, the performance itself brings up yet more questions: what will the audience think? How does it feel to watch this piece if you, too, are a Third Culture Kid? How does it feel if you’re not? Are the stories clear? Is each moment interesting and meaningful? Do the music, movement, and text blend together in the way that we envisioned?

We’ve received some fantastic responses from audience members and friends, both complimentary and constructive, and we’re already thinking about how to feed those ideas back into the next phase of the piece. Many people said they related strongly to the stories and the ideas of home, nationality, and belonging – whether they were Third Culture Kids or not. I’m thrilled that we’ve received this kind of response already; this sense of community and empathy is exactly what Home Is Where… is all about.

And after the performance: what’s next? Scratch is just the beginning, and there’s loads to do as we prepare for more thinking, developing, devising, and rehearsing towards a full length piece. We’re taking our short version to the Cockpit Theatre this month, for another chance to connect with an audience and gather more feedback, at the Theatre in the Pound scratch night (Monday, 22 February, all tickets £1 on the door).

Behind the scenes, we’re pursuing leads with venues, funders, and potential new members of our TCK team (if you are a producer, designer, or stage manager/audio technician, please get in touch!). With hard work and a little luck, we’ll be back in rehearsal this summer!

For now, I’ll leave you with a little recap of our performance at Camden People’s Theatre at the end of January. Enjoy!