What Follow Me Home showed me and why I think it’s essential viewing

What Follow Me Home showed me and why I think it’s essential viewing

by Adam Stepfner

I wanna start by saying THIS IS NOT A REVIEW! I’m not here to critique the piece (although I will say it’s insanely good) but I wanted to write about my experience seeing Follow Me Home, and how it made me feel and think. So, 2019 (what a time) was when I first saw Follow Me Home. My bestie Laneikka was in it so of course I was coming, and I don’t remember thinking much about it. I remember thinking “yeah this is good, it shows a range of experiences which is important and that’s great” and went about my life. 2 years later and here we are in 2021, with Follow Me Home re-staged and I have a lot to say about it.

I never thought I would find myself connecting to this work in the way I did. It’s weird cause I never considered myself homeless. I googled “homelessness definition” and although a bunch of articles popped up with some brief overview of it, one thing stood out for me. On the homelessnessaustralia.org page, there’s a “what is homelessness?” tab, and the first thing that shows up in big bold writing is THERE IS NO ONE DEFINITION OF HOMELESSNESS, and I think that really speaks for itself. For context, I lived with relatives for a few years during high school due to family circumstances (which we won’t get into because this is not a sob story) which falls under the “homelessness” umbrella. I never thought of it that way because I think, for me anyways, that homelessness is more of a mental concept rather than a literal one. During that time I didn’t have a “home” to call my own but whatever, we were under a roof, it was a safe space, I was loved and supported and so I never felt like I’d really missed out on something. It wasn’t until seeing Follow Me Home in this new re-staging that it made me realise 2 things; Firstly, I was actually homeless (at one point but not now, just to be clear), and then I had to come checking for myself. Not to invalidate the experience but I had it lucky. I could’ve been on the streets or in foster care or a refuge etc but I wasn’t – I had people who cared for me and loved and supported me. And it made me think “wow people really go through this and I never even batted an eyelid” because I thought homelessness was so far removed from my own life. I also don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, cause that’s just not it, but I understand how I was in a situation that many people don’t have access to, and it made me take a step back to really think about the experiences I was seeing on stage.

Honestly, I think having already seen it and knowing what was gonna happen allowed me to use the time to actually think, instead of needing to follow the story. In saying that, let’s unpack some of the thoughts I was having; At first it was, and I don’t think guilt is the right word, but it comes back to me checking in and acknowledging my privilege, then it was like “wow I really need to do some work to undo my own biases to properly understand homelessness as a concept” and later, it brought some weird clarity like “oh yeah I did go through it but that’s okay.” And at one point I was holding back the tears (I was front row I’m not about to steal the show with a breakdown) like to think I fully missed this last time I saw it???? 2 years does a lot and I think there’s something kind of special in missing it the first time and then being like “oh wait I actually understand this now.” (Also it brings some peace of mind knowing I’ve grown in that 2 years) I think it resonated with me not because I felt heard or seen on stage, I could relate sort of but it wasn’t my story, but more for the fact that something clicked for me. I get what these people feel, but also how I feel, and it made me realise how actually important this work is. And not in an “oh this is so woke please go see it!!” way, but in the way of, I think this work should be made accessible to anyone and everyone who could connect with it because it is so necessary for these people. To be seen and heard does a lot, and I think what’s the point if the people you’re telling stories about don’t have access to them. I genuinely think that theatre should be filled with young people who will feel heard and seen, and especially on a main stage.

I’m really glad that I connected with it in the way that I did, because I didn’t know I needed this show until I had it. I urge anyone, even if the tiniest part of you thinks you can relate to this work GO! AND! SEE! IT! It was an eye-opener for me, as a person seeing how a piece of art can affect me like that but also as an artist, like, I can literally make people feel this way through art? PERIOD! If you know anyone who would benefit from this work, get in touch, buy them a ticket, I personally don’t care how you get them there, just get them there, because it’s probably one of the most urgent pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen for young people. And I’m gonna sit with it, cause there’s a lot for me to unpack. I’m sure if you asked me in a week’s time what I think I’ll have a whole lot more to say about it. Like, remember when Kylie Jenner said “this is the year of like…….. realising stuff” that was me during the show and as I sit here writing this piece.

For now though, let’s just say it how it is, this play is f***ing powerful and demands to be seen, not by the oldies with their season passes but by the people who need it. Period.