Victor Esses is on Facetime, guiding his mother around her childhood home via his phone. He talks us through the Lebanon flat and her reaction to the place from which she fled as a refugee more than three decades ago. The audience watches the recording play out, projected on a small suitcase. It’s a moving point that summarises this one-man show’s wider themes of migration, identity and the struggle to find somewhere safe to lay down roots.
There is a delightful softness to Esses, both in his performance style and writing. He takes the audience with him on his quest to find a place that will welcome every aspect of him as a Jewish-Lebanese-Brazilian gay man. Even his body doesn’t feel comfortable to him – he can’t find anywhere, including his own skin, in which to fully exist, somewhere he will be able to dance with abandon and without shame.
Where to Belong is a small, intensely intimate show. This is reflected in its form: Esses marooned on a tiny patch of AstroTurf with his laptop and suitcase. The narrative never goes further than its immediate question and Esses’ performance, although enigmatically restrained, can lapse into borderline lethargic.
Yet, there is real tenderness here and emotional connection. Esses repeatedly breaks the fourth wall in search of answers, asking the audience to accept him. He has created a quiet, tender tear-jerker of a play that moves those watching to question who they are willing to embrace.