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One Hundred Homes ★★★★★
Edinburgh Summerhall (Venue 26)
Until Sunday 28th August 2016
I felt blessed to catch One Hundred Homes while only being in Edinburgh for two days; I loved it so much I was struck with how easily I could have passed it by, and felt grateful for the chance find. That is a sign of effective and powerful theatre. It taking place in a makeshift shed in the courtyard of Summerhall was always going to attract me, as I love intimate performances. But I was not expecting to find a show that exemplified everything I loved about theatre.
It is difficult to say whether Yinka Kuitenbrouwer is ‘performing’ when she tells the stories of the hundred-odd people that she has visited and interviewed about the concept of home, as she does not assume a character. Indeed, her show could hardly be called a play. She has collected the words, experiences and perspectives of people from all over the world, and is still continuing to do so while at the Fringe. The position she most accurately assumes is storyteller or reporter; you feel that she is the vessel for the audience to hear the voices of the people she’s met. Whatever her role she delivers it with charm and commitment.
Her love of people was evident, and one of the main beauties of the show. She does not act out or impersonate the people as she reads their words off cards with a picture of them on her head. Instead she reads their stories and subtly yet effectively captures their characteristics so you feel like you’ve also met the very same Iraqi husband and wife from Kent that she had interviewed. At one point, when she didn’t have a picture for the woman she was about to voice, Yinka described how they looked so the audience could easily imagine who they were hearing. She described this woman with such vivid and poetic detail that the audience could not only see her in colour, they could see what was beautiful and characterful about her.
The audience were immersed in Yinka’s mind as every once in a while, a detail that was mentioned about one person, such as where they lived, prompted a series of associations and links to show how all these people were connected. Her show beautifully overwhelms the audience with the network of humanity that we are all part of. Indeed, in times when xenophobia and division seems to dominate people’s outlook, seeing someone capture the very human longing to feel safe, secure and themselves in the place they call home, was touching and important.
The intimacy of the shed made the audience feel like they were Yinka’s guests, as did the tea and biscuits! This, and her constant eye contact with the audience made the show feel like a conversation, in which you got to know her and the people she’d met. This style was heightened by her first story being prompted by a letter from the audience, from which she picked a name of a person and began from there. It was immediate, personal and exciting to know it would be different every time. The show you were seeing was yours and the rest of the audiences to share. There is something very special about a celebration of people’s experiences being mustered every day, but each one having its own individual rhythms and stories being told.
I left feeling like I knew humankind a little bit better, and for me, that is what great theatre should do. It was wonderful to see Yinka do so in with such creative, fresh and charming methods.
Review by Jackie Edwards
Tickets cost £10 (£8 conc) and are available form the usual Fringe outlets, the venue and online at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/one-hundred-homes.