Review of Hometowns – by Nick Chowdrey

Review by audience member, Nick Chowdrey.

How do our surroundings affect who we are? How does our place of birth and where we are raised influence our nurture? Do we form permanent bonds with the places we reside, or can we move about freely, paying not much heed to what we have experienced in the places that we leave behind? These were the questions posed by ‘Hometowns’, a devised, light-hearted, multimedia extravaganza performed by the young, Exeter-based theatre company, SourDough, premiered in Barnstaple and performed at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter, as part of the Exeter Fringe Festival.

The informal nature of the piece was encouraged from the moment you entered the theatre: the more familiar setup of an empty stage with the hushed rustlings of the audience underscored by non-offensive musac replaced by a relaxed, up-beat atmosphere and a warm greeting from the cast, who were already on stage. This set the tone for the entire piece which, although not delivering any particularly poignant message, was so delightfully light-hearted and visually interesting that the 45 minute piece whizzed by, leaving me enjoyably satisfied by the bows.

The piece took the form of disjointed scenes, following no through-story or characters, but instead exploring the theme of Hometowns through a variety of means, including shadow-puppetry, physicality and monologue. The scenes were delightfully playful, indeed, sometimes so playful that their relevance to the piece was somewhat confusing – a scene involving a Stone Henge made of cereal particularly coming to mind. This being said, the manipulation of light and the use of multimedia in the piece was nothing short of inspired; the ideas so varied and interestingly imaginative as to truly do credit to the art of devising, and specifically to the uniquely creative working relationship of this particular company.

Overall, I feel that ‘Hometowns’ embodied the essence of  what a true fringe performance is meant to be – an original idea communicated in an original way that challenges what the general public’s perception of “theatre” – something that, unfortunately it seems, can only be given a proper airing as part of a fringe festival. Although I don’t think the theme of the piece carried enough weight or substance to produce anything that imposing; indeed, I very much doubt that this was the company’s intent, the execution of the performance was slick, professional, funny and intriguing, leading to a thoroughly enjoyable 45 minutes of theatre and, at the end of the day, £5 very well spent.

06/07/2011

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