It's all in the gaps, says Home director at Chichester

Director Josh Roche is offering a play which relies on ambiguities as he brings Home by David Storey to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from October 8-November 6.

HOME pic by Helen Maybanks
HOME pic by Helen Maybanks

Josh directs Leon Annor, Hayley Carmichael, Daniel Cerqueira, Doña Croll and John Mackay.

As he says: “It’s a play where it is all in the gaps, but given the quality of the cast we have got, it is a play that is becoming clearer by the day.

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“You need to listen as an audience, but it is not something that requires you to do 3D chess in your head. This is about listening and about engaging with the people and with what is happening in the play.”

It is a mix of trying to work out what is happening and simply going with it.

“It is very carefully written and Storey certainly can’t be rushed, but you get in the river and you flow with it on its own terms and when you do, it is beautiful.”

And the Minerva is perfect for it: “It is one of the most amazing theatres for its size. It is the intimacy and the fact that it can be epic. To be able to have both so well is just wonderful. You can be very deft and nuanced, but it also allows you the size and the scale.

“The whole thing was the fruit of a long discussion really. Daniel Evans, the artistic director at Chichester, saw a show of mine at the Young Vic that I did back in 2017 and asked me would I be interested in directing here. It was just a question of finding the right script.

“So it was a long journey of reading plays, and that’s the way that a lot of freelance directors work. You pitch projects alongside directing other things. You are suggesting particular titles and particular angles, and Daniel said ‘What about Home?’

“I had read it at university 12 years ago, and I reread it and what struck me was that the level of craft and the level of the writing were just second to none for a late-20th-century writer, but I was also struck by the relevance of the play in the current context. It is a different play now to what it would have been in 1970.”

In the piece, in a neglected garden, small talk oscillates between the weather, the neighbours, reminiscences of friends and family and anecdotes of past exploits in love and war. But this quintet of characters, with their foibles and failings, are not what they seem to be, and nor is their home. And overhead, the clouds are gathering.

“It doesn’t give anything away to say that this is a play about Britain and to a certain extent about England specifically, the feeling of legacy within the country without actually saying the B word and a lot of that fits the current climate. It is also a play about individuals trying to find each other.”

And again, in the light of the pandemic and indeed also in the light of the globalisation of social media, it feels particularly apt for right now – that sense of isolation and that sense of trying to connect.

And so the decision to stage it was made: “The first thing you do is open a bottle of champagne. The second thing you do is start panicking! And then you start analysing. You try to get into the bones of the play. You are trying to get as deep a reading of the play as you can possibly get, to try to get into the muscle of it and work out the right way to play it. And it is usually the bits that you don’t understand that reveal the most, that you work at and then you realise.

“And then you try to work out what the play is as an event. There is the story that it tells and the style of the play, but you have to think what the play actually is as a physical event.”

And yes, it would be giving away too much to say what that event is in this particular case, but recent plays Josh has worked on have included a piece which was a séance and a piece which was an act of communion: “It is a way of thinking that really gets you thinking about the text.

“This is a play that relies on ambiguity. It is all in the gaps.”