A Guide for the Homesick is another one of those 80-minute, one-act American plays. Nothing too new or innovative, but I will give credit to the wonderful acting by two people captivating an audience in a small space.
Two American strangers meet in the bar of an Amsterdam hotel. Teddy (Clifford Samuel) on a holiday who has just fallen out with his best friend and Jeremy (Douglas Booth) who may be waiting for a flight back to the states, spend the evening unravelling each other’s stories. This piece is currently being performed in the smaller stage at Traflagar stuidios. Which proved to be a lovely, intimate setting and suited the play very well. The smaller performance area made the audience feel as if they were in the bedroom with them. Also being to close to Douglas Booth’s face is just a blessing.
In Teddy’s room, their conversation evolves, moving from mild flirtation to weighty geopolitical argument. Both have one important person I their lives who is now distant. The show is very much a mystery on where are they? Throughout the piece there are intense moments between the two as they reflect on their situations and find solace in one another’s company. Awkwardly Jeremy finds reasons to leave then, again awkwardly, stays. There was never a real, passionate reason to stay for me, other than maybe his curiosity. I didn’t quite feel the need for them to stay together at the beginning of the play. Towards the middle and end I could feel their guilt and loneliness building and binding them.
Ken Urban’s two-hander is interested in guilt, repression and judgement. This piece is about personal betrayals, yet they do not betray each other as strangers. Both licking each other’s wounds, I felt this piece represents the humans selfish point of view, which I really enjoyed. The flaw that humans want to help and love, but really you will do what is best for yourself.
Both actors multi-role, which is always impressive to see. The use of characters helps deepen their stories and helps the audience create a character allegiance, who is the worst, who do you feel the most sorry for? This piece is high energy and asks a lot of the actors emotionally, and I’m glad to say they kept that energy and strong vibes alive through out, without an interval.
Although, in some flashback scenes, the space and script works against the actors as the action switches relentlessly between Jeremy’s time in Uganda and Teddy’s disastrous holiday in Amsterdam. Phone calls, hand gestures, lighting states or memorable phrases merge and it feels and looks unpolished. Booth finally leaving was a wet ending (literally he walks into a rain storm) and I really yearned for something stronger. Unfortunately, for me, you do discover what happened to their counter parts, personally this ruined the play for me and I would rather have been kept wondering and guessing rather than having a definitive answer.
It’s a decent piece, it is inoffensive, somewhat predictable and probably won’t stand the test of time or become a classic, but it’s worth seeing and worth a read as new plays do need to be supported. For the price of roughly £20, it’s not going to break the bank. It’s a piece with potential. Take it or leave it.