Coming Home preview: ‘creating a story’

By Sofya Grebenkina

Hild Bede Theatre’s (HBT) final offering of the term is a charity concert entitled Coming Home. All profits from the show go to the charity, Women for Women International, an organisation that supports and provides business, health, and rights education for women in post-conflict areas such as Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, Rwanda, Kosovo and more.

Coming Home is a name which Lead Creatives, Sadie Fitch Kempner and Finola Southgate have devised. Fitch Kempner says that the title is strongly inspired by the cause they are supporting, and it is mostly ‘about building communities… we wanted to extrapolate from that.’

For both of Southgate and Fitch Kempner, it’s a step in a new direction, because despite both having extensive musical experience in other areas, neither had previously done any musical directing. However, Southgate is quick to say that teaching others has been the ‘easiest job… because everyone has natural musical ability’. As Fitch Kempner points out, this has meant they have had a freedom of choice, especially when it comes to be ‘[un]limited by genre or style’. And indeed, they have chosen to include songs from musicals, soul, funk, folk and others, with a mix of original writing and well-known classics.

Furthermore, despite the fact that both have appeared in a number of musicals, and what they have found to be different with creating a concert is, as Southgate puts it, that you ‘don’t automatically have a story’; it’s all created from scratch. The creative vision then has been to stop the concert feeling like merely a collection of songs rather than a unified whole, which simultaneously tells a moving narrative. Southgate says that there is a deliberate, thought-out progression, and that that they have specifically structured the concert so that from painful songs, such as one about domestic abuse, there is a gradual ‘healing process’, with the concert culminating in a Sondheim classic.

Some of the performers are also finding this to be a novel challenge. Coral Gordon, says that this is her first time performing in a concert in Durham and one of the pleasant surprises of this process for her has been that ‘everyone is really [musically] good’. Hattie L-Clements adds that for her it’s been an exciting experience working ‘exclusively with peers’ and its one she feels gives her a voice in the creative decision-making process. Rather than being taught there is a true element of collaboration and enjoyment.

And though rehearsals have been fun, and Fitch Kempner assures me that what she’ll miss after the whole process ends is ‘definitely the people’ that she’s worked with, there is still a serious undercurrent that also runs through the concert. Eliza Asare Parbi, says that what she wants to leave the audience with is a reconsidered ‘idea of what home is’. Being part of the concert has also made her rediscover songs she had listened to before in light of the topic of ‘home’. And this is what the concert is really about, as Gordon says, one of the factors that make the support of this charity particularly important is that their money will help create a better home for girls, while at the same time reminding us of how privileged we are here, ‘living in the bubble.’

Before leaving I hear the soulful voice of Asare Parbi, as she performs her original song ‘Take Me Home’, which she wrote a year ago and which she says was inspired by her home country of Ghana, which she hasn’t visited for 6 years. ‘I didn’t remember what my foundations were’, she says. As she sings out ‘I’m holding on tonight because I know its right’, it’s certain that the after the show the audience will be holding onto this experience for a long time afterwards.

‘Coming Home’ will be performed in The Assembly Rooms Theatre on Sunday, 11th of December at 19:30. Book your tickets here

Photograph: Charles Hyde 

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