Review: Chichester Festival Theatre's Home - poignant but rather slight

Home by David Storey, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, until November 6.

Home - Photo by Helen Maybanks
Home - Photo by Helen Maybanks

Sophie Thomas’s remarkable set quite takes your breath away as you enter the Minerva.

Imagine the gorgeous garden set from Entertaining Angels 15 years ago had been transplanted from the main-house to the Minerva and left to go to seed.

The set for Home is precisely what it would have looked like now – and onto it wander two smart gentlemen in suits who proceed to have the strangest and yet most superficially natural of conversations.

The sequiturs aren’t so much non as loose as they courteously, urbanely ramble. They chat about anything and everything – and this is where the play is at its strongest.

John Mackay’s Jack is a guy with a life-long interest in public transport; a chap who, whatever the conversation, will always respond “I have a cousin, aunt, niece (delete as applicable) who…”

Daniel Cerqueira’s Harry has a fine array of platitudes to meet him with as they inconsequentially skate over the first things that come into their heads.

Of course, it’s a play about what they aren’t actually saying – and as you try to focus on their meanderings, you find yourself desperately trying to work out just who they are and, maybe more importantly, just where they are.

The opening 40 minutes, with just the two of them, is delightfully, skilfully and beautifully done.

But even a play that’s determined to go nowhere has to go somewhere, and the introduction of two women – starkly contrasting – certainly breaks a little of the piece’s rather weird charm.

Which is in no way a criticism of Doña Croll as Majorie and Hayley Carmichael as Kathleen. It is just that it feels as if they are given much less to work with than the men, their characters considerably less interestingly drawn – and to an extent it’s the women who give the game away, if indeed we do ever work out where we all are.

No, for whatever reasons, the play is considerably stronger when the chaps hold the fort – particularly in those moments when their underlying pain overwhelms them.

Josh Roche directs it all with skill and sensitivity – but nothing on the night quite persuades that this is the lost classic that the theatre wants us to believe it is.

As someone famously said of Waiting For Godot, “nothing happens – twice”, and much the same happens (or doesn’t happen) here. But in this case it’s perhaps a weakness that the second half takes us absolutely nowhere the first half hasn’t taken us already.

In the end, it’s less a classic which has slipped through the net than a footnote making a rare public appearance – which doesn’t, of course, stop it from being intriguing, endearingly strange, poignant and possibly just a little haunting before it fades out, pretty much as it faded in. Slight, but interesting all the same.