The nature of the concept of ‘home’ is a fertile one for theatre. In Lilac Yosiphon’s play, home as a physical location is played against the hunt for a sense of home by immigrant communities, as well the possibility that home is a more metaphorical concept, being where one lays one’s hat or brings up one’s family.
Playing out as barmaid Hannah (Yosiphon) banters with pub patron Jordan (Sam Elwin), There’s No Place Like is staged around the Live at Zedel’s cocktail bar, its plush chrome not quite fitting in with the sense of a down-at-heel boozer that the dialogue suggests. But then, the play’s dialogue is not its strength. While Yosiphon and Elwin share a twinkle-eyed chemistry, their relationship struggles under the weight of lines that clunk forward like the noisiest clockwork, manoeuvring their emotions into place with little sense of genuine self-discovery.
And that is a shame, for some of the ideas that Yosiphon pours into this, her first full-length play in English, are engaging ones. Hannah’s position as an Israeli who has overstayed her visa – and who therefore cannot leave the UK for fear of never being allowed to return – is shaded by a difficult relationship with the family she has left behind in Israel. And although the way that some people’s opinions about immigrants taking jobs that Britons could and should do are refuted borders on the simplistic, there is a sense of a well-rounded character beneath the banalities of the dialogue.
Elwin’s Jordan feels less tangible all around, being more effective as a sounding board for Hannah’s frustrations than as anything more complete. There is a breezy, flirtatious air to his delivery throughout, though, which compensates hugely, making his character likeable for all his flaws.
Halfway through the play’s single act the action jumps forward ten years. And while the characters enough charm to convey the sense that two characters who met once a decade earlier would both remember, let alone be affected by, their previous encounter, there is little impression of a world moving on outside the window. In a post-Brexit, post-US election world, and in a story deeply rooted in the feelings of immigrants in a community that is not welcoming, it feels as if more would have changed for either character over the time period.
The inclusion of guitar music (written by Elwin and played by Marcus Ridely-Frewin) along with Yosiphon’s singing of a Hebrew song provide a lift to the whole show – but ultimately, it is not quite enough to make up for the dialogue that does not meet the expectations of the play’s otherwise promising premise.
There’s No Place Like played at Brasserie Zédel on November 8 and 9.