It’s a safe bet to assume that most people have seen a sci-fi film, tv show or play set in outer space that contains one or several of the genre’s well-known tropes, such as alien intervention, alternative universes, mission gone wrong and of course space travel issues.
Isaac Diamond’s latest work, Homeward Bound takes some of the genre’s familiar elements and utilises them as a backdrop to present a different kind of story, one that focuses on the universal desire and instinct to return home.
Captain Perry (Isaac Diamond) is woken from a deep sleep by his AI assistant VETA (Kylie Bywaters) who informs him that they’re drifting in space, countless years from Earth, and have missed a crucial mark on their mission. Things are looking dire on the ship as supplies are running low. While they work on solutions to extend supplies and find a way to send a message back to Earth, Perry starts to experience hyper-realistic dreams where he’s transported home to his ornithologist mother (also played by Kylie Bywaters). Something is happening to Perry’s mind and body as he struggles to distinguish between what is real and what is not.
Isaac Diamond in Homeward Bound. Photo by Sophie Minissale.
The story evolves over scenes that seem separated by days, weeks or maybe even months. Director Elise Wilson has created a sense of timelessness as the scenes meld into one another, except for some jolting sections as Perry’s body seemingly begins to undergo a transformation. This blending of scenes allows the audience to feel Perry’s confusion and inability to distinguish what is ‘real’ and what is a dream. Kylie further enhances this feeling as she seamlessly switches from being VETA into Perry’s mother.
Isaac and Kylie are individually powerful on stage but also make an exceptional team. The dynamic between them feels well established and brings to life the symbiotic relationship between VETA and Perry. Isaac possesses an impressive control over his body, allowing him to physically represent the indescribable changes happening to Perry. Kylie takes a more fluid approach than is typically seen in the portrayal of robots, although there are select moments with more rigid movement, the overall human-like presentation represents VETA’s sophistication.
Set designer James McMillian and Lighting Designer Rhiannon Petersen have worked collaboratively to bring lighting elements on stage, with light strips lining the inside of metal frames, spaced evenly across the traverse stage to create a tunnel. Both James’s and Rhiannon’s designs have elements that are reminiscent of the modern Sci-Fi aesthetic but their incorporation of colours such as red and yellow provide a point of difference that aids in reminding the audience that the ‘outer-space setting’ is not what drives this story.
Racheal Dease’s composition and sound design is the perfect match for this piece and establishes the feeling of something being off kilter from the beginning. Costume is the one element that is most closely aligned to the Sci-Fi design style, with designer Nicole Marrington presenting VETA and Perry in all white uniforms. However, without giving away any spoilers, this majorly changes within the show’s final scene.
Kylie Bywaters in Homeward Bound. Photo by Sophie Minissale.
Throughout Perry’s changing state, the same bird motif continues to emerge. From the get-go we are met with impressive bird facts that focus on their incredible ability to find home, no matter where or how far they are. We learn things like they can absorb their organs for more energy, or that they can sleep and fly at the same time. As more sacrifices are made on the ship in the attempt to return home and the want to do so consumes Perry, we realise the instinctual want for home and the lengths one will go to get there is not exclusive to humans.
As a writer, Isaac Diamond has used a genre with set storylines to his advantage to create something different and unexpected. Similar to a psychological thriller, Homeward Bound requires active engagement from its audience to unpack its meaning and mysteries. With many discoveries still to be made, I know I’m still not done working through it and will likely not be done anytime soon.
Homeward Bound is presented by Lazy Yarns and is on now at The Blue Room Theatre through to October 22.