Review: ★★★ The Host, National Youth Theatre – St James’ Church

National Youth Theatre performed ‘The Host’ at the Yard Theatre in the summer of 2017 and are now back for a few nights only in St. James Church, Picadilly. The show, written by Nessah Muthy is nominated for a 2018 Writer’s Guild Award, and it’s written as a response to the refugee crisis and Brexit. It’s performed alongside an artwork installation called ‘Suspended’ by Arabella Dorman, also relating to the refugee crisis.

Performing this show in a church does present some problems. The acoustics, although wearing microphones, were not the best and mixed with the South London accents it was difficult to hear the dialogue at times. It is a beautiful church but the way they’ve included the artwork is more disturbing than anything. It perhaps would have worked better as a separate installation around the stage or entrance.

Playwright Nessah Muthy chose a great time to write a play about racism, cultural differences and refugees, not long after the referendum and as headlines still regularly feature Brexit. Muthy, who was on the BBC New Talent Hotlist in 2017, really manages to capture well-known types of Englishmen as well as describe a hostile approach to foreigners that are found everywhere in Europe during the refugee crisis. Some of the dialogue could have been a bit more realistic and believable for a naturalistic play.

The scene transitions were quite disruptive as there was no black-out and the actors broke out of character to change scenes. The sound effects only added to the disorderly atmosphere, which was disappointing as the audience tried to get caught up in the scene. Some of the acting felt over acted, but that could have more to do with their direction than the actors.

The two main characters, Yasmin and Rabea, portrayed by Rebekah Murrell and Zakaria Douglas- Zerouali immediately stands out as incredible actors that will go far without a doubt. The three sisters are also great, but their characters are a bit too stereotypical to stand out in the same way. Murrell and Douglas-Zerouali also have an incredible chemistry and it is truly seen in a short dance scene that was cut off way too early unfortunately, as it was one of the realest moments in the show.

It is definitely an important topic to cover, especially as we’re still in Brexit negotiations, as a government and as people. ‘The Host’ shows how it is to navigate being a foreigner. Hopefully the show will return for the tour they are planning, having fixed some of their difficulties, as the issues it’s exploring will definitely continue to be relevant.

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