Home is not the Place tells a tale of two lifetimes, but one bloodline. In her one-woman show, Annie George intertwines the story of her life with her grandfather’s, deftly shifting through accents and gestures as she brings each of her family members to life before our eyes. Her memories of her family in Kerala and their lives as young Indian immigrants in 1970s Britain are contrasted with tales of her pappachi P.M. John – a writer, poet and academic in a world with no one else quite like him.
Despite a slow start, with George stumbling over her carefully crafted script, her adoration of the grandfather she never met is completely contagious. With his portrait projected against the back of the stage, his handsome face beams down at us as it did at her all her life – he was hung on the wall at her grandmother’s house, she tells us. Her enthusiasm and passion for P.M. John’s story shines through her performance; it is impossible not to see him through George’s own rose-tinted glasses. When she tells us the tale of his receiving an invitation to study in Kolkata, our hearts sing with hers. When she tells us of his untimely death at 40 years old, and the ensuing poor fortune of his widowed family, there is not a dry eye in the house. Her ability to contract the empathy of an entire room is totally unparalleled.
The stories George tells are fascinating: tales of generations, the ‘othering’ of her culture, stories of Indian independence so foreign to British ears. Beautifully written prose is skilfully combined with verse as she reveals to us the revelation she has made: home is not the place, but the people you’re with. And although she has romantic dreams of India, it is her family ties – her person and national history – that define her: ‘I saw my face’, she says to the portrait of P.M. John, ‘in yours, in paint’.
Home is not the Place ran at Traverse 2 between 21-22 February 2020.
Featured image credit: www.lunaria.co.uk