Our House – A Photo Essay

The Storytellers weave individual stories skillfully together into a unified performance that made me question ideas of home, displacement and humanity.

Our House is a co-production between Ishyo Arts Centre (Kigali, Rwanda) and Helios Theatre (Hamm, Germany). It was directed by Barbara Kolling and Carole Karemera.

Each story is told visually and figuratively through the words, questions, movements and music of the Storytellers who build houses onstage, continuously recreating the space to transport the audience to different times, countries and places.

Audience members are invited onto the stage, encircling the performance space and encouraging an intimate setting that is enriched by the unity of the Storytellers’ ensemble.

The five Storytellers, Herve Kimenyi, Helena Alijona Kuhn, Michael Lurse, Eliane Umuhire and Marko Werner, begin the performance by walking onstage with a roll of carpet draped over their shoulders. Slowly, they create the image of a house while disjointedly stating, “I was born. I was born in a house. I was born in a house, in a neighbourhood. I was born in a house, in a neighbourhood, in a city…”

The Storytellers’ train journey from Russia to Germany is brought to life by the collective movement and sounds of the ensemble, with live music accompaniment by Herve Twahirwa. Rhythmic footsteps that sound like an old steam train increase in pace as the Storytellers carry the audience to another place and time.

During the second to last story, a Storyteller picks up a figurine to help him tell the tale, while all the storytellers pick up their own figurine and a small house. Only on closer inspection is it apparent that the figurines are miniature versions of the Storytellers themselves. The messy pile of carpets and sticks in the background embody the destruction caused by the bombing of a home, earlier in the performance.

This final image of a house mirrors the beginning of the performance with the addition of a visibly reinforced structure, welcoming symmetric carpets and the thoughtful gaze of the six miniature figurines who watch the audience slowly exit.

Tegan is a strong advocate for the development of Theatre and the Arts in community settings and has been involved with numerous Applied Theatre programmes throughout her professional training and experience. Tegan graduated with a Master of Arts with Distinction in Applied Theatre from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She has professional experience in Community Performance that promotes Young People’s expression and engagement through Puppetry and Theatre practices. As well as collaborating and performing with ERTH Visual & Physical Inc and Welsh theatre company PuppetSoup, she has co-directed and worked alongside Shop Front Arts Co-Op Junior Ensemble of 8-14-year old’s to create the original devised production, The Unknown. Tegan is currently working as Teaching Artist for Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘School Drama’. This is a Teachers Professional Development Program designed to improve teaching and learning by modelling the use of drama-based strategies with quality children's literature.