Couple invite Zoom audiences into their Islington flat to hear personal chats

Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou perform Unfamiliar at Home in their Islington flat

Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou perform Unfamiliar at Home in their Islington flat - Credit: Archant

Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou aim to reclaim the term family and demystify Queer relationships as they share their quest to become parents in Unfamiliar at Home

Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou perform Unfamiliar at Home in their Islington flat

Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou perform Unfamiliar at Home in their Islington flat - Credit: Archant

Theatre makers have been forced to find fresh ways to reach audiences at a time when venues are closed - but one couple has invited them into their Islington flat to overhear their deeply personal conversations.

Audiences Zoom in live to see Victor Esses and Yorgos Petrou eat, hug, and talk about wanting children in the intimate, confessional Unfamiliar At Home.

As they share a simple meal and explore the emotions and practicalities of becoming a Queer parent, they hear pre-recorded conversations and interviews with the LGBT community.

“We started talking about our relationship and one of the first things was whether we wanted to have kids,” explains Esses a theatremaker who has collaborated with his visual artist partner on the piece.

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“Part of this performance is us meeting people who are doing it, including friends who did surrogacy, which helped us have this conversation and made it feel even more possible,” adds Petrou.

“We interviewed members of Queer families, some in polyamorous relationships, some trans parents, a solo mother who co-parents with an ex, a lesbian couple and a sis woman.”

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When Unfamiliar was performed at the Arcola last July, they took domestic items into the performance space. Now as it goes on a virtual tour of arts venues, they bring the

performance into the domestic.

“To make something so comfortable to us become strange and unfamiliar allows us to explore the feelings, the hard to communicate stuff that surfaces in our home - trying to have kids as a Queer couple is a difficult emotional process sometimes,” explains Esses. “The act of creating the work helps us to process the actual feelings.”

The couple were also motivated by reclaiming the term family and making Queer families more visible.

“It’s close to our hearts. These things are not talked about often and yet there’s a lot of opinions! We wanted to give the story of our journey but also to inspire others to overcome barriers. To say ‘look this is an option that we grew up thinking we couldn’t have if we were true to ourselves as gay people’.

“We were not allowed to choose that option of having kids, or it would be complicated - I come from a religious Jewish family and to accept that could be my reality within a gay relationship was a long process..I never had role models, it wasn’t on TV.”

Both feel the term family has been “hijacked” by the right.

“It’s not a conservative term, we want to make it visible that other families exist. There are different models of families, some are five parents, some one. Some don’t have children and are Queer families of people who had to leave homes because they don’t belong there. We should have the same rights and choices and live in the world as equals.”

Unfamiliar at Home also airs ideas around gender expectations, the pressures of chosen parenthood, whether surrogacy is “a violation of a woman’s body” is adoption more ethical? And the desire for legacy and love.

“That feeling of wanting to look after and give love to something smaller than yourself is beyond explanation,” says Petrou.

“Witnessing a life growing is a beautiful magical thing for us.”

The piece is updated as their journey towards parenthood progresses, although Esses admits they need an interval for them to process it personally before it goes in.

Asked why they don’t mind opening up their home to curious eyes, it seems this gently humorous, thoroughly likable pair are also taking one for the LGBTQ team by “normalising Queer relationships”.

“Opening our home to people who have never been in a Queer household they can see, we live in a home like anyone else, it’s not covered in glitter, we’re not drinking and partying all the time. This is our life. We eat, rest and hug in a home.”

Unfamiliar at Home is performed live at 7pm until November 25 and on November 24 in association with Arts Depot North Finchley followed by a Q&A.

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