Yinka Kuitenbrouwer welcomes you into her shed, pours you a cup of tea, gives you a house-shaped biscuit, and the words come out in a torrent. First, just names: the names of all the people in all the hundred homes that she visited for this project. Second, connections between them all. Ridiculous connections which only real life could throw up: people share a cousin who went to the same primary school, people live on the same street in different towns, people share an ugly green vase in a hallway. Third, their stories.
She describes them in loving detail – with the air of someone describing a friend you’re about to meet
Kuitenbrouwer visited one hundred homes, and in each she gave the occupants tea and house-shaped biscuits, and asked them what they think a ‘home’ is. She describes them in loving detail – with the air of someone describing a friend you’re about to meet – and repeats their words. One of the nicest things about this show is the total lack of judgement with which these people are presented. Kuitenbrouwer takes them as they present themselves, their thoughts and beliefs are reported, rather than endorsed or criticised. Immigrants and emigrants describe how they have settled - or not - in new places. Provincial farmers describe how grounded they feel in their local communities. A young boy says he thinks a home is just somewhere where his bed is. Actually, no, a home is where people that love him are. Actually, really, it’s where the people that he loves are – but he usually loves people that also love him. And come to think of it, if he was with people he loved, he probably wouldn’t need a bed – he could sleep on the floor.
These stories are by turns uplifting and depressing. Some people are homeless, some squat, some live in retirement homes or train stations or family homes or flats. It’s a mark of the humanity of the show that these people always surprise you. If you hear that someone lives alone in a foreign city, it’s natural to think of them as being lonely. But some of the solitary people Kuitenbrouwer describes are among the happiest; some of the most dislocated are those who live with their families. During each interview Kuitenbrouwer takes a photo of her interlocutor, and when describing them she fixes each photo to her head. The effect is a powerful one. I’m not sure how well any of the audience – or even Kuitenbrouwer – could claim to know these people. People are complex. But we certainly feel that we’re being granted a window through which to get a glimpse of their lives.
This show is a gem. It’s everything you’d hope it would be: funny, sad, and strange. I’d like to see it all over again.