Review: The Home Project

Multidisciplinary collaboration between the Howland Company and Native Earth Performing Arts hits home in a powerful way


THE HOME PROJECT by Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan and Cheyenne Scott (Howland Company/Native Earth Performing Arts). At the Courtyard of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House). Runs to October 3. Pay-what-you-choose ($5, $15, $25), limited free tickets for 25 and under. 416-866-8666. soulpepper.ca. Rating: NNN


The idea of home has taken on greater significance during the pandemic, when so many of us have either been stuck at home or away from the loved ones who represent home. And for those of us who consider live theatre another kind of home, this fascinating collaboration between the Howland Company and Native Earth Performing Arts represents a pleasant homecoming.

Presented by Soulpepper and performed in the courtyard of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts – why isn’t this space used more often for outdoor stagings? – The Home Project consists of three personal stories by co-creators Akosua Amo-Adem, Qasim Khan and Cheyenne Scott.

Scott’s story begins the 80 minute show, and in some ways is the most fragmented and challenging. The Straits Salish actor and writer splits up her story and delivers it in vignettes throughout the night. Each vignette seems to illustrate the narrator’s attempt to find a home. She tries to swim in a body of water, or fly through the air or roam the earth, communicating with salmon, gulls and foxes, all while fires destroy forests and water floods the land.

The theme of being removed and dislocated from one’s own land is powerful, and the various natural elements are nicely suggested by production designer Jareth Li’s video backdrop. But at times Scott’s story is hard to follow. Her songs, including some using a loop pedal effect, have a hypnotic power, but don’t cohere with the rest of the piece.

In Khan’s segment – split into two parts – he plays a 30-something Pakistani-Canadian actor who is back at his childhood home in Newmarket, helping his unseen mother pack up before she moves somewhere else. His discovery of two carpets hidden by his late father causes him to reflect on the past.

Khan is an engaging, likeable performer, and there are fascinating ideas in his script about generational differences and cultural stereotypes. An audience participation segment about carpets has lots of potential. But his script relies too much on telling, and a stronger director (the co-directors are Keith Barker, Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster and Paolo Santalucia) could have given his performance more shading – it seems pitched at the same level throughout.

The most finished segment belongs to Amo-Adem, who plays Adwoa, a stand-up comic who emigrated from Ghana as a child and is now caught between two cultures – the old world of her mother, and the new world represented by Toronto and Canada.

During her stand-up routine, Adwoa suffers a sort of cultural breakdown, and Amo-Adem is so grounded and present she blurs the line between art and reality. What makes her piece work so well is the clarity of her writing and the intensity of her performance. Whether she’s recounting a five-year-old Ghanian’s first glimpse of an escalator or eviscerating an annoying white male barista (listen to the way Adwoa says the word “white”), Amo-Adem is astonishing.

Her story, and sections of the other two artists’, will find a permanent home in my imagination.

@glennsumi

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