Illustration by Ben Beechener
I was really impressed by Maya Little’s play Home Fires which opened June 10th. Through this innovative piece, Paper Moon Productions provides us with an impressive production which tackles mother-daughter relationships, issues of inheritance, and broken connections. The main plot is the difficulties Marie faces due to her critical mother before ultimately accepting herself for who she is. Home Fires represents the eternal struggle of finding one’s center. Home for Marie is the center of conflict, she is crushed when she discovers that her mother will inherit it after her father’s death. Inside and outside of the house, things are spiralling out of control.
The play opens with Marie (convincingly played by Georgie Dettmer), the protagonist, sitting on a brown chair in a semi-lit room where there is only a small table with a glass of water. The backlighting of this production was brown, an excellent choice because of its association with earthiness, nature and being grounded. However, Little uses it in a subversive way to signal at the detachment from home. She uses this theatrical convention in order to deconstruct the popular assumptions associated with brown such as warmth and comfort. The choice to perform in such an impersonal room is significant. The scene was bare but for a table- so that focus could be directed towards the unveiling of Little’s dynamic ideas about what Marie’s future would be like as they unfolded. Marie, crushed by her father’s death, is an intriguing character. It seems as if she is almost having a nervous breakdown while recounting her personal story through a stream of consciousness. This triggers her to initiate a dialogue with her estranged mother in her head. While dealing with the multiple repressed feelings, she tries to find resolution. The dramatic monologue allows her to reveal her most inner thoughts to the audience while addressing her mother.
The significance of water as an alternative element to earth is interesting as the act of drinking water gives matter and meaning to Marie’s desires. We notice that before realizing something important, she takes a sip of water almost every time. Her innermost secrets are revealed right after she drinks some water, this imparts a sensation of intimacy. Since ancient times, the appearance of water has represented earth, the source that substantiates every living being. According to Thales of Miletus ‘water is the source of every living thing’.
It is not quite clear why Marie’s mother has abandoned her, what her motives are or what she wants from Marie. Marie is vulnerable because she will reach the next milestones of her life without her father. Everything in her life is destabilized. Her movement inside and outside of the house through remembering and reliving the grief and frustration she felt when her father died is a highly private experience that becomes collective as it is unraveled in front of the audience. The edge-of-the-seat effect was what made the performance worth watching, with its blend of revelation and withholding. The intense and nuanced performance of the actress, who played the role of Marie, made Little’s Home Fires a very captivating play.