A soldier has returned from war, but his tribulations are far from over. This is the premise for Theatre Témoin’s Nobody’s Home, the story of an American war veteran battling PTSD which aligns itself with the journey of Homer’s Odyssey. Through the portal of a broken bathtub (and, it implies, a similarly non-functioning domestic life) we are hurled through a series of flashback-cum-fantasies in which our hero attempts to make sense of the military tour from which he has been spat, and readapt to civilian life.
Admirably devised by the cast, Dorie Kinnear and Will Pinchin, Nobody’s Home contains some beautifully realised theatrical moments, but the whole thing feels a bit square peg, round hole. The comparison is understandable, that Odysseus’ troubles only truly began after Troy fell is the very point of The Odyssey, but blind prophetic ghost-soldiers, cycloptic medical professionals and shawl fluttering sirens all prove a rather ham-fisted attempt to bring the disparate experiences of the Greek and modern heroes together in this production.
Metaphor is the order of the day, in a theatrical world where a bathtub can be a broken relationship and sailing ship, a video game a warzone, a snarling pig a traumatic fever-dream. There is one particularly curious scene in which a watermelon painted to resemble the Earth is pulled from the clogged bath drain and smashed. The hero mourns and then eats it. Nobody’s Home claims to be a voice for mental health but when so much meaning is displaced or buried, how is it possible for the play to truly speak?
The characters never directly address one another in any meaningful way. Discourse about the soldier’s recovery is reserved for syrupy monologues in which Dorie Kinnear rhapsodises to her unborn child about how things used to be. The symbolism piles up, reality never seems to break the spell. There is a sense that a crucial point is being missed among the madness: In a rare moment of honesty between the husband and wife, he declares her ‘his Ithaka’, by which he seems to mean ‘his everything’, but the poem he draws comparison from tells a different story: “Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now.” With this understanding in mind, the flickering hopefulness of Nobody’s Home is considerably dimmed.
The play has been lauded as a feat of physical performance and dance, and indeed, there are moments in which the performer’s bodies appear completely in sync. But it lacks the discipline, the sharp edges of true mime. The imaginary world they build around themselves feels unsteady, too easily manipulated. The chemistry between Kinnear and Pinchin is admirable and it is in their quiet moments of connection that the play begins to shine, but these are two few and far between to develop into anything significantly meaningful.
Before we enter the theatre we are advised that if the events of the play become too much for us, we’re welcome to leave the auditorium. The problem with Nobody’s Home is that the events are not too much. For the purposes of interrogating the heartbreak and anguish of a guilt-ridden soldier home from war, the fracturing of family, of self, of military and civilian life, they are not even close to enough.
Nobody’s Home is now touring. Click here for more details.