Review by Daz Gale
After receiving acclaim for his Bottom, Willy Hudson returns to Soho Theatre with a brand new show Welcome Home. The world premiere of what is billed as a sci-fi epic, this autobiographical adventure is more fact than fiction in what promises to try and create something good out of his biggest pain. The question is was this a welcome return to Soho Theatre and is there any way Willy would be able to top Bottom?
Telling the story of his return to his parents house following a bad breakup. It is there he is faced with demons that have haunted him since his birth and that is his childhood Church. In what Willy describes as a “Dark nightmare revenge” we hear how Willy confronted these demons in a story about religion, faith and “bad motherf*****s”.
From the moment Willy jumps out on stage following an introductory video that fully immerses you into his world, you are completely won over by him. Bursting with charisma, he performs Welcome Home with a smirk on his face and a twinkle in his eye that ensures you are hanging on to his every word. A masterful storyteller, Willy effortlessly transports the audience into his life story in a visual performance that demands your full attention is always on him and even blinking might cause you to miss something.
Willy’s writing is incredible impressive. Completely accessible, his natural storytelling allows you to understand, sympathise and even relate to all elements of his story. Through references to Doctor Who, space villains, Woolworths and Robbie Williams, he crafts a story out of some surprising pop culture moments, all of which tie together beautifully.
While Welcome Home is full of laugh out loud moments, which comes easy for the naturally funny Willy, the writing is also multi-layered. While you may be grinning at the turn of events he is recounting, there is also a more serious message at play here which speaks of accepting your own identity and the dangers that are still prevalent from outside forces. At one point Willy openly says he hopes what happened to him doesn’t happen to other people, it really drives home why shows like this can be so important as you never know who is watching and what they may be facing in their life and journey to self-acceptance. The way Willy manages to connect with an audience is part of what makes him such as a captivating performer.
Brutally honest and unflinching, Willy leaves everything on the stage, completely exposing every element of him (sometimes literally - there are definitely some moments that might not be for the easily offended) in a show that connects on every level. Breaking down the wall between performer and audience, Willy mingles in the audience and even asks one lucky person to borrow their sock – not something you see in the theatre every day!
Several musical numbers litter the show too, from the angry and loud opening number to the title number with its mix of innuendo and surprisingly heartfelt message. Willy’s beloved Robbie Williams even gets a look in with a singalong performance of ‘Angels’. Willy’s performative qualities are versatile as he proves himself as fantastic musically as he is when telling a story.
Produced by Daisy Hale, Welcome Home also boasts great production details from Susanne Dietz’s integral use of video design to Anna Orton’s fantastic set with the Weeping Angels growing presence providing an inspired touch. Jai Morjaria's exquisite lighting and Tom Foskett-Barnes' sound design manages to make the show emulate a concert during musical numbers and add to a truly atmospheric setting at others. Zach James direction helps Willy’s narrative really come to life in a show that starts on a high standard and never lets the quality dip throughout. And no spoilers but look out for a twist I did not see coming!
Welcome Home is an astonishing piece of theatre. A concept that you wouldn’t think could have so much heart proves itself deceptive in its execution. This raw and honest recount into a dark time in Willy’s life is deeply witty and intelligent with an ability to connect with its audience like I’ve rarely seen before. It’s biggest asset, however, is its star and writer. Willy Hudson is an incredibly impressive performer who knows how to craft a show and perform it to perfection. In Welcome Home he has created something as important as it entertaining. The world is a better place purely for this show existing, and hopefully it can lead to some good creating more tolerance and acceptance.
Welcome Home plays at Soho Theatre until 11th February. Tickets from https://sohotheatre.com/shows/welcome-home/
Photos by Harry Elletson