Home is Not the Place
- Gareth K Vile
- 25 February 2020
Tender storytelling in a post-colonial mode
Displaying its origins in both poetry and storytelling, Home is Not the Place relates both the autobiography of performer and writer Annie George and the excavated life of her grandfather, PM John. Covering George's experiences migrating to the UK and John's development as a writer, Home's episodic structure examines the relationship between Britain and Kerala, personal identity and how the personal exists within the wider currents of history, tentatively exploring some of the ideas that are beginning to define the 21st century.
The three strands of the narrative (John's life as a teacher, scholar and poet; George's autobiography and her trip to Kerala to investigate her grandfather's journeys) are told in parallel, and the struts of the structure are visible. John's biography is remarkable, but revealed in fragments: his time studying theology is sketched out, and his remarkable achievements are mentioned rather than explored. It is only briefly that George addresses the prejudice that she has experienced, and her questions of identity are suggestively posed and given little resolution. A late reflection on home as an abstract or personal identity rather than a nationality or location speaks only to two of the strands and while John's experiences are described and put into historical context, their relationship to George is not always made explicit.
The strength of the production is in the individual episodes: George discovering the portrait of John, or chatting to her mother (who becomes the translator of her father-in-law's poetry for her daughter, in a powerful image of how familial legacies can be transmitted). The connections between George and John's respective biographies isn't always clear: in many ways, it is a series of contrasts, and John's family relationships take second place to his studies and poetic endeavours.
Far from being a simplistic look at traditions or community, George's journey takes an idiosyncratic path through the past, offering an individual experience rather than a generic commentary on belonging and migration.
Traverse, Edinburgh. Run ended.