Theatre and Performance Maker Victor Esses and Visual Artist Yorgos Petrou talks about their Zoom Performance ‘Unfamiliar at Home’

Starting a family is a process filled with many unknowns; anticipation, unpredictability, frustrations amongst other emotions determining a couple’s personal journey. A process both Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou have found themselves ‘familiar’ with for the past six years, the couple offer a very honest take on what this journey has meant to them in their topical piece Unfamiliar at Home. Although a familiar process to them now, a sense of ‘unfamiliarity’ in terms of approaching embarking on this important journey within their relationship shaping their journey; it’s a case of both learning about one another as well as the process of starting a family. Victor and Yorgos tell us more about this important show.

Hi Victor and Yorgos, your show Unfamiliar at Home will embark on a digital tour throughout November. How are you feeling ahead of the show?

Nervous – it’s hard to do it from home, without seeing people on the other side. Excited – to open our home to the public, to try a new form, to be creative.

The production is an autobiographical piece ‘about being queer, wanting children and ultimately, the human desire to create a legacy.’ Why explore this topic further?

This topic is exactly where we are as a couple: we’ve been exploring the idea of growing our family, looking back on our history. It felt like a great subject to share with an audience, to make visible, to shed light on because to us this feels very under-explored. There’s not enough info out there – we hope this can help people feel less alone and seen.

Victor, as a theatre and performance maker, and Yorgos, as a visual artist, how have you approached creating the show?

We tried to bring our different practices together. We used some theatre tools through warm-ups, devising, creating lists, expanding into storytelling and some of Yorgos’ tools of making sculpture, performing to the camera, durational movement.

The show has seen you work with dramaturg Lou Cope, movement director Rhiannon Faith and Outside Eye Mikhail Karikis. What has this collaborative process involved?

Lou, Rhiannon and Mikhail are very generous practitioners with lots of experience and wisdom. Lou is a very gentle, honest, open person. He watched our material and asked us lots of questions to expand the conversations and guide us to hold the piece as one whole. Rhiannon shared her way of creating work and the concerns of her practice. We discussed the movement language and she would warm us up, create and expand those movements, think of the piece and how it reaches audiences. Mikhail would discuss the whole process with us, create full scenes, encourage, question, clarify – guide us. The three of them held a safe and critical space for us to work together in this process.

Having been adapted for our digital age, the performances will be showcased on Zoom. How have found factoring in how you incorporate tech within your work?

It’s been a great discovery to make something for this medium, so much so that it will be impossible to go back to exactly how we performed this before. We rewrote whole scenes, created new material, played with cameras and sound sources and spaces in the flat. It’s really taken the work to a different place, into our real home.

Whilst creating the show, have learned anything about yourselves and each other, or both?

We’ve had to talk a lot about boundaries and deal with them. We learned that we need to talk things through, be very considerate to each other. We work well under pressure but need the down time. Doing that at home though is not so simple. 

What can audiences expect from the show?

An honest, human, technically exciting piece that looks at family, what it represents, what choices we have in life and how we can make things happen if we want to, but also the complexities of it all. Expect an exciting unique approach to performance that sits in-between visual art, film and theatre.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

That there are different ways to be than the ones we get exposed to. Intimacy is beautiful and complex and an option. That queers can and should parent, should they wish to. That you are not alone.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

To find out more about Unfamiliar at Home, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop