National Youth Theatre: The Host Review

rebekah_murrell_zaka_qTYw3What: ‘The Host’, a dry comedy-drama about a refugee’s stay with another 20 year old

Where:The Yard Theatre, 2A, Queen’s Yard, London E9 5EN

When: 23-26th August 2017 20:00, Matinee Saturday 26th at 15:00

‘The Host’ is a bittersweet storyabout poverty, family, and the migrant crisis in the UK today. It’s a pressing topic, and one it explores with radical frankness and a deftness of touch. Following an argument with her sister about money, Yasmin (Rebekah Murrell), rescues asylum Rabea (Zakaria Douglas-Zerouali) from a xenophobic attack. They tentatively become friends- but Yasmin’s family have views on ‘immigrants’ and believe ‘charity should begin at home’.

The two main strengths of this play are both fundamental: a good script and talented performers. The narrative makes for a brisk, intense 80 minutes, covering a lot of ground and never slowing or sagging. The dialogue is witty, well-observed, as realistic as verbatim work but handled with a finesse that reveals the characters and keeps the plot moving. It is often bitingly funny but not in a way that distracts from the thrust of the plot. The main body of the narrative is noticeably better written than either the set-up or denouement; this is where the bulk of the depth, range and complexity of the characters that showcases the young cast.

Rebekah Murrell shows charisma and stamina as foul-mouthed Yasmin, and it’s notable that she projects a strong sense of character throughout despite seldom being off stage. Zakaria Douglas-Zerouali is an excellent foil and portrays the simultaneous resilience and precariousness of a survivor with warmth and quiet dignity. Isabella Verrico dominates the space as Yasmin’s forceful older sister, Pearl, who has had to step into the space left by their mother and radiates desperation and rage. We’ve all met a Pearl or two; they tend to stick in the memory.

The stage is minimal but communicates the cramped, cold, high-rise conditions of some low-rent housing in London. Small touches like the standalone electric hob and the brand of Yasmin’s ever-present vodka are a constant reminder of the constant challenges and limited solutions presented to someone living paycheque to paycheque.

Despite some issues with pacing and consistency in script itself, this was an excellent production of a very strong play and I heartily recommend it.

Written by Roman Ackley