Home sits very much at the heart of Where to Belong, this 50-minute performance from Brazilian artist Victor Esses. Using anecdotes from his own life Esses explores what it means to call a place home, and whether he achieves that himself. It’s a story that takes in Brazil, Lebanon and the UK, each one offering our protagonist a fresh start and, crucially, fresh difficulties.
Where to Belong isn’t a show that hits you immediately. It creeps up on you gradually, and only when it reaches its crescendo does the audience realise that they’ve been taken on an emotional journey. That is largely in part to Esses himself, an effortlessly charming and endearing performer. It’s easy to be drawn in by his unassuming but engaging stage presence, helped by some brief but powerfully crafted moments of audience interaction.
What lets the piece down slightly is, on occasion, its reliance on worn tropes. Using the microphone as an ‘other voice’ is a fixture of most storytelling pieces these days, and the show could easily have done without it. Similarly, the dragging of a chair feels forced and unnecessary, but so typical of other performance art pieces.
But when Esses isn’t using those tropes, and is simply talking to the audience, Where To Belong is at its most poignant. The final ten minutes, when the audience are forced to confront their own sense of place, is deeply affecting. The bittersweet way in which it ends is an apt reflection of Esses’ own life story to date – a very fitting climax to a beautiful piece of theatre.