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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Nobody's Home: A Modern Odyssey
Nobody's Home: A Modern Odyssey
Published on Saturday, 20 August 2011

3 stars

Gilded Balloon Teviot (venue website)
3-15, 17-22, 24-29 Aug, 1:15pm-2:15pm
Reviewed by Sarah Hill

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

On paper, Nobody’s Home: A Modern Odyssey reads more like a comical farce than the serious exploration of post-war traumatic stress that it proves to be. Reducing Homer’s almighty epic to a single domestic setting, Odysseus’s struggle to return home becomes another man’s struggle to fix his own bathtub. As is soon revealed, however, this is a tale of tragedy with far more serious intentions. Regrettably though, it falls short of its winning potential; for while the concept certainly provides intrigue, the piece fails to overcome gaping stylistic inconsistencies.

This modern take on Homer’s classic text from emerging company Grated Cede re-casts Odysseus as a disillusioned war-veteran: returned home in body yet absent in mind, Grant finds himself struggling desperately to engage with reality and re-adjust to home life. Suffering from disturbing flashbacks and unable to coherently articulate his problems, he faces with terror the breakdown of his marriage – the prime motivation for returning home in the first place. From Grant’s distorted point-of-view, the narrative switches abruptly between the real world of DIY hell and a fantasy world of nightmarish hallucinations that have him mistaking his own wife for a zombie. Blending loose elements of physical theatre with both modern and mythological motifs, Grant goes on an absurdist voyage into the unknown, battling his demons in a bid to finally, fully, return home at last.

This makes for an interesting and certainly topical adaptation of a much-loved text: for this alone, I felt the audience were engaged and willing to listen as Grant’s fears revealed themselves one after the other, even if, at times, they were repetitive and patience-testing. Yet the main fault with Nobody’s Home, for me, was not its generous running time but an overbearing lack of consistency. In order to contrast dream from reality, this piece uses a muddle of theatrical styles. Conforming neither to absurdism nor naturalism, Nobody’s Home clumsily skirts between the two rather than harnessing the full potential of one.

As a result, some moments dragged, whilst others were thoroughly, spine-tinglingly engaging. Midway through, during a moment of grisly experimental brain surgery executed with clown-like buffoonery, Nobody’s Home suddenly seemed to find its feet: here, I was able to briefly glimpse how well the piece could balance horror and humour. Elsewhere, naturalistic dialogue and sensitive acting provided pockets of dramatic tension. But unfortunately, none of this seemed to last – succeeding as self-contained moments whilst failing to hold together as a single body.

There are two actors in this production, but for much of its one hour duration the focus rests mainly on Will Pinchin in the role of Grant. He’s a watchable performer, and has his brilliant moments, but isn’t yet quite strong enough to single-handedly carry what feels in many moments like a solo piece. The choreography too, felt a little heavy handed. Still, there were several inventive and playful moments that served to smooth over the cracks – the bathtub filling with water and becoming a vessel at sea, for example – sustaining audience interest and keeping the piece afloat.

Nobody’s Home is clearly a piece with the greatest of intentions. Yet whilst I can appreciate the ideas fuelling it, I found the overall experience more frustrating than thought-provoking. The company’s talent as emerging theatre makers is apparent, as is their commitment and enthusiasm, yet Grafted Cede must learn to approach the strength of their ideas with more focus; there is a reservoir of potential here, waiting to be tapped.

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