On a beautifully simple set of four white cubes and fluorescent lights, we meet Caitlin. Turning sixteen, she can officially get in contact with the birth mother she has been secretly Snapchatting. Meanwhile, the mother who has raised her from the age of three is having to cope with the trouble that Caitlin is forever finding herself in.
Forever Home marks the beginning of A Play, A Pie and A Pint‘s 2023 Autumn season, and does so with a lyrical flourish. The musical sees the characters sing about their feelings for one another and the situations they have found themselves in. There are some witty, relatable lyrics, but the music by Alan Penman is a little on the bland side; you will have heard something similar many times before. Still, there are some occasional moments of empowerment and poignancy to be found in the sentimental strings and soft piano keys. The standout is a fabulous duet between Caitlin and her endearingly violent best friend, Nicole, who has chosen a bad week to give up battering her adversaries. Singing about being besties, they list all the terrible things they have done to each other and all the terrible habits and character traits they have – none of which will stop them being there for each other, taking selfies, and bickering.
This theme of always sticking together, through gnawing anxieties and titanic arguments, is at the heart of Pauline Lockhart’s book and lyrics. Any suggestion of rejection or abandonment is swiftly countered with love and concern. It’s a safe way of dealing with the deep trauma and insecurity that can come from adoption, and in turn makes it a fun and comforting show for young adults, though perhaps too sugary for anyone older. Near the end, Caitlin makes a worthy but unlikely speech about poverty, mental health, and exclusion. Even Nicole, in a brilliant comedy turn, has too much insight into her own flaws for someone on the verge of throwing their future away for vape money. They make important points without tipping over into being preachy, though this and the lack of real opposition sacrifice some of the story’s authenticity.
Above all, what Forever Home lacks is any real sense of villainy. The chief antagonist caves within seconds and a police officer is simply there to convey information. A few twists of the knife would give it more depth and drama without taking away from the sweetness. That aside, Kirsty Findlay as Caitlin is joyously sullen company, stomping her way across the stage, both stubbornly confident and endearingly vulnerable. Chloe Hodgson shows her versatility, convincing in three vastly different roles, while Christina Strachan is deeply moving as Mum. With the pain of Mum’s past healed by her bond with her daughter, Forever Home proves that the families we choose can be equally as strong and cherished.