Even a Monday night in Soho isn’t exactly quiet. There are still crowds outside the pubs, just smaller than Saturday’s, and the tourists will still walk right into you. I still managed to enjoy my walk to the Soho Theatre for a press night, enjoying the feeling of not knowing what I’m going to walk into – I do as little googling as possible because I love a surprise. An hour-and-a-half later I left Soho Theatre feeling less clueless, but utterly bewildered after Welcome Home, written by sole-performer Willy Hudson.
Hudson promises “a big queer sci-fi epic” (amazing, right?), and whatever picture that conjures up in your imagination, trust me when I tell you it’s not that. Entirely unpredictable, it swings from karaoke to sex-show to family drama to something unknown and deranged. Don’t get me wrong though: I loved it. Hudson is so alluring that the weird spectacle that he unfolds in front of us somehow seems… so right. The sci-fi influence gives scope for silliness, and the queerness inhabits every second of the one-act performance which deserves celebrating.
I’ll admit that the first few minutes didn’t win me over. Hudson is off-stage to begin with, but his presence is integral to the energy of Welcome Home, so I found it hard to laugh along at first. Then he enters with a song (written by sound designer and composer Tom Foskett-Barnes) which is only so-so, possibly because it’s hard to make out the words. Yet it wasn’t long before his charm won me over, with an ease of talking to the audience which made me quickly feel like a friend.
The story itself is loosely tied around an autobiographical period of breaking up with a boyfriend and the subsequent retreat to the family home. It contains some moments which will feel familiar to queer audiences, of coming out, acceptance, rejection and so on which feel truly raw behind the humour. The ‘serious’ parts are so touching, and to contrast with both the feelings and the funny is the shocking extreme which you’ll have to wait to see for yourselves – Hudson makes sure we keep the secrets. Just please, PLEASE read the content warnings.
A huge team have come together for Welcome Home: thirty-five creatives and even more supporters are mentioned in the programme. In retrospect, the fact it didn’t seem like that many people were involved probably means they all did their job incredibly well. It was slick, well-paced and just a great show. An incredibly NSFW experience, so go with an open mind and with your sense of humour switched on and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well.
Writer by: Willy Hudson
Produced by: Daisy Hale for Willy Hudson Ltd.
Directed by: Zach James
Set and Costume Design by: Anna Orton
Composer and Sound Design by: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Welcome Home plays at Soho Theatre until 11 February 2023. Further information and bookings can be found here.