Connor is on a night out and ready to be open about his sexuality. Although underage, he manages to talk his way into a gay club without needing to show I.D. because he’s persuasive and expeditious. Connor meets Rob, an older bartender with experience of the environment and what’s on offer. So begins a tumultuous evening between a disaffected veteran and a risk-taking initiate. No Place Like Home is a cross-section of consent, queer culture and the conflicts within it, performed by Alex Roberts.
A lyrical treatment of queer club culture which promotes its perpetuity, whilst also acknowledging what it has lost.
Cameron Carver’s movement direction is excellent. Roberts’ performance is physically demanding and he sustains frenetic sequences with a calculated grace, often fitting perfectly between projected shapes. He regularly entombs himself within the walls of an enormous projected triangle similar to the one you will find on the back wall of the main stage of G-A-Y, and although this exertion occasionally results in moments of breathlessness, frankly this suits the nightclub landscape (where occasionally words are lost in the furore) and does not impact scenes.
Roberts is an excellent storyteller. He switches from rhythmic and poetic accounts of the evening to realistic dialogue exchanges. His narrative does not pull punches but also telegraphs in the opening sequence where those punches will land. From the outset the romance between Connor and Rob is framed as being poisonous, and yet Roberts’ narrative feels most emotionally engaging when he allows the audience to glimpse tender exchanges, which indicate that the relationship might succeed. These moments are refractory. Roberts plays with this concept throughout, and multi-roles between Connor and Rob via a recurring costume ‘change’ and the support of Jac Cooper’s intelligent sound design.
Virginia Serneels’ video design is captivating. It expands the underwhelming nightclub (within which most of the action in No Place Like Home takes place) into a much wider neon landscape. Serneels’ projections explode the show and allow Roberts to frame his narrative into an interregnum where a personal journey feels ancillary to a wider issue: that all queer club culture may be at stake, or lost within its own ever-fluid adaptations. No Place Like Home is essentially an interaction between two men across one evening, set in the past – Serneels’ video design provides the lens by which a closed-time sequence instead feels expansive & current. Most strikingly, these projections deploy icons and emojis used in hook-ups as symbolic loci, illustrating Connor’s attempt to hook-up not as an isolated and personal event, but rather as a navigation through a world within which he is new and uninitiated – Serneels’ video design nails all the tropes of a hero’s journey.
At its best, No Place Like Home is a lyrical treatment of queer club culture which promotes its perpetuity, whilst also acknowledging what it has lost. It acknowledges the symbiosis between thrill-seeking and the management of pain. There are moments where momentum and details in the story tangle and the narrative isn’t precise, and the clumsiness of the nightclub sometimes spills too much into the space of Camden People’s Theatre. Overall, No Place Like Home recognises the peril of engaging in any new environment, and quite originally, recognises the phobias and self-hatreds at play within the community itself.