Review: Home, Southwark Playhouse
Written for Culture Wars, 14.09.2009
Can a tasting menu ever really satisfy like a full three-course meal? Tangled Feet’s nomadic exploration of the small patches of earth we call our own serves up an array of tasty morsels but fails to condense into anything more. Delightful and well-constructed though each proposition is, the piece’s mind map structure prevents it from drawing any conclusions beyond total relativism. Home, it proffers, means many things to many people.
At times, the focus is on belonging and a quaint notion of community; at others, on the individual’s ties to a place or building. Momentarily, as a bespectacled estate agent tosses identi-kit accommodation to an eager crowd below, it muses on property as mere asset, before dwelling on the intangible comforts and security of one’s own space.
If Tangled Feet get away with such wide-angle panorama, it is because their sketches are often glazed with a political veneer. Tents with legs take on a fighting formation to ward off a newcomer, hinting at the hostility towards outsiders born of BNP policy. American invasions are evoked as the same tents are flattened to the sound of falling bombs, while the community that then tends to their broken properties seems that of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Having already pitched itself in town squares and docks, woodland and grassy plains, on high-streets and ferries, Home sits neatly in the musky gloom of the Southwark Playhouse. Here its seven white tents, each illuminated with a spearmint glow, seem a clumped settlement viewed from on high, as if wagons wrenched from a Western. At times, it is too reliant on their luminosity and lightness, insisting on repeatedly floating the tents around the space, but where it elevates hypothesis above hypnosis it does so with a thoughtful delicacy.
Never more so, in fact, than when the tents themselves acquire animal behaviour. One chases after its departing owner like a pet in distress; another wards off a returning inhabitant with a guard-dog’s snap and snarl. As the piece ends in a funereal procession – crumpled tents cradled in loving arms, their rods hanging limp like lifeless limbs – the importance of home, whatever its significance, is made abruptly and touchingly clear.
Photograph: Tangled Feet