Where to Belong

What makes a home? It’s one of a number of questions that Victor Esses asks of audience members as they come in, taping their responses for use later on in his show. And the interaction doesn’t stop there: towards the end of the hour, he asks us to consider if we had to leave where we live immediately—where would we go, what would we take, and who would be want to ensure were safe?

Esses effectively uses a mixture of video projection, photographs, music and songs to suggest what home means to him.

These are all relevant, of course; to his own story as a gay man of mixed race and heritage, now based in London—where is home to him? How does he place his body in this particular performance space, in an former anatomy lecture room? His mother and her family fled civil war in Lebanon when she was a teenager; his father left Beirut when he was 12. Esses suggests that the many years of moving on, from France, to America and ultimately Brazil, may have contributed to his mother’s homophobia, racism and fear of change. Problematic: as he’s gay.

Esses effectively uses a mixture of video projection, photographs, music and songs to expand on his background, to suggest what home means to him — chiefly for himself, but also his family. One of the most tender moments is from 2017, his first visit to Lebanon, during which he was able to FaceTime his ecstatic mother while going round showing her childhood home, now an artist’s flat and studio. It’s “the biggest gift I could ever give her”, and you can tell that means a lot, despite the many problems and barriers which stand between them because of his unashamed sexuality.

Growing up, Esses watched lots of war films and Holocaust documentaries—why did so many of the latter’s victims not simply leave before it was too late? Now he has some understanding of why: he has found his own home in London, a point he makes while symbolically rearranging his props into a fortress against the underlying homophobia inside his own family. In all, a thoughtful, subtle reminder of how hard home is to leave.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

What makes a home for you? Victor Esses is Jewish-Lebanese, Brazilian and gay. In 1975, Victor's mother flees Lebanon as a refugee of the civil war. In 2017, Victor visits Lebanon for the first time. In 2018, amidst the elections that will see Brazil choose a far-right president, he travels from London to São Paulo to show his partner his childhood city. Where to Belong is the tender, moving story of these journeys. Start your day with an exploration of how to find your place in a complex world of identities. Emerge Performance Prize shortlisted.

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