“She’s white, like us”
Rounding off the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s inspired residency at the Yard (read my review of last week’s Blue Stockings here) is a new play from Nessah Muthy called The Host. Picking at the scab of the Brexit vote and the ongoing refugee crisis, Muthy reveals the kind of festering wound that is shocking to see, even as it has infected so many levels of our society and so much of our contemporary discourse.
Yasmin is the most responsible of four half-sisters who are grieving the loss of their mother and the relative security she provided for them on their Croydon council estate. For times of austerity are biting hard and Yasmin finds herself supplementing her job as a cleaner by acting as debt collector for a local loan shark. But it is only when she takes in Syrian refugee Rabea and offers him her couch that objections are raised.
There’s an element of dramatic contrivance here, it’s a move that never quite rings true despite good work from Zakaria Douglas-Zerouali’s migrant-with-a-secret. But what it does do is provoke a set of powerful arguments between Rebekah Murrell’s scorchingly good Yasmin and her sisters, delving into uncomfortable notions of what we mean by being ‘English’, of how even the strongest of family bonds can have limits, of how the question of race is one so many are so ill-equipped to deal with in a rational way.
For Yas is the only member of her family who happens to be mixed-race and this is a tension that flares up most powerfully with Isabella Verrico’s elder sister Pearl in the show’s most unsettling scene (Jesse Bateson and Taylor Keegan also do well as other sisters Nat and Hayley respectively). Director Zoe Lafferty balances a ferocious intensity with a good deal of humour throughout, making this The Host(ess) with the most(ess). And congrats all round to all at the NYTGB and the Yard for this cracking season.