I’m a Stranger in My Own Country
Hotel Methuselah is a story about a crisis of belonging. It is performance that centres on a man who has lost his memory – he literally does not belong anymore. The action also takes place in an unnamed country in Europe that is in the throes of civil war – in a country that no longer knows itself, which is why it is divided. These two themes have shaped how we made this show – what has created this sense of the loss of belonging and how the problem of responsibility becomes acute when the loss of belonging is felt both collectively and individually.
Haunting the performance are the various conflicts that have recently torn Europe apart and there are personal stories that inform the narratives that we tell in this piece. In my family my grandfather volunteered to fight in World War 2 when my grandmother was pregnant with my father. He did not have to fight. He was well above the age of conscription. But he left my grandmother and was caught at Dunkirk having been in the army for a few weeks. My father did not see his father for nearly seven years. What is more, when he returned home my grandfather said to my dad that he was a stranger in his own country – a sensation that those who return from conflict often experience. I have always wanted to know what moved my grandfather to abandon my grandmother. Was it in the spirit of adventure, the fleeing of responsibility or for the political good of an endangered Europe? This show is, in a small way, an exploration of these questions told through the structure of a different but parallel story – one that I hope touches the concerns of those that watch it.
Of course, being estranged is one of existential conditions of being human. If this is the negative then there is a positive side to this condition that we might consider – how we often make the stranger welcome. Perhaps, in the light of nationalism and the ever present force of patriotism that we should always be wary and highly watchful of, the stranger reminds us of what it is to be human – to be open and welcoming to those we don’t know, to the experience of the new and challenging. And this, I think is one of the purposes of theatre itself: to make strange and make anew.
a response from Andrew Quick (Imitating The Dog, UK)