BWW Review: THE HOST, St James's Church, Piccadilly
Yasmin's family are going through a crisis. The bailiffs are coming knocking, and there isn't enough time to make the money needed to pay them off. Four young women struggle to find their own solution and when Yasmin becomes distracted by a stranger she meets, her sisters question where her loyalties lie. Themes of family, culture and race are all at play in Zoe Lafferty's highly acclaimed production that holds nothing back.
It's actually really great to hear the words "fuck" and "c*nt" used in a church. Credit must be given to NYT for never censoring any of Nessah Muthy's writing. The text roars with excitement and its gritty, yet humane approach to such a contemporary topic is refreshing. Muthy speaks about a national dilemma, but frames it through the lens of a domestic setting, making it immediately identifiable.
With that comes characters that we can instantly relate to, and once again NYT have demonstrated that their ensemble contains some of the most promising young talent that the UK has to offer. There is a genuine enthusiasm for the work, and the company has cast a team that gels incredibly well. Each does their part to keep the energy alive, and the overall vibe on stage is brilliant.
Yet the show is made by the performance of Rebekah Murrell, in the lead role of Yasmin. She is utterly compelling to watch throughout, and manages to adapt her delivery so that it flits between humour and trauma. It's not everyday that you get to see a performer with such raw talent, but Murrell is definitely one to look out for in the future.
I only wish I could have seen The Host during its run at the Yard. Whilst beautiful in its aesthetic, the church environment at times prohibits full audience engagement, as the seating arrangement results in tricky sight lines. However, you can see why the show has transferred here. The church is known for its liberal and progressive approach to popular culture, and this is further highlighted by their current installation.
Suspended by Arabella Dorman is an artwork composed of hundred of items of clothing that have been discarded by refugees upon their arrival on the island of Lesbos. These materials are weaved together like a spiders web, and dangle over the audience's head throughout the performance.
There is no surprise as to why Muthy's play won a Writer's Guild Award. It's a fresh and contemporary take on a situation we're all too familiar with, yet know nothing about. NYT have plans to tour this production to rural areas and it's a fantastic idea. More people need to see this, and I feel grateful that I did.
The Host at St James's Church, Piccadilly until 3 February
Photo credit: Mark Cocksedge