first night

Home

Olivia Race watches Castle Theatre Company tackle a contemporary piece of writing in their latest production.

CTC’s decision to stage Nadia Fall’s Home was definitely a brave one, but it is a decision that has brought something wonderfully fresh, affective and amusing to Durham.

The show explores the meaning of what it means to call somewhere a home, using real testimonies of young people and staff at an inner city hostel, Target East.  It was an absolute pleasure to witness the most ethnically diverse cast I’ve ever seen in Durham capture and bring to life the stories and lives of a mix of real young people.

The stories are presented through word-for-word monologues, duologues and group scenes, interspersed with moments of song, some of which were original.  Although the monologues themselves were very well acted, with clear thought going into each character and into conveying the naturalism of the interview setting, the movement from section to section often felt clunky and jarring, slowing the pace of the piece right down.  Yet this is something that will be improved on with confidence in entrances and exits, and picking up cues faster.

The standout performance of the night came from Hannah Azuonye playing ‘Eritrean Girl’.  Her accent was fantastic and consistent throughout, as she recounts how she was smuggled into England in a lorry and the trials and tribulations of her journey.  Her commitment to physicality and added mannerisms and hand gestures really put life into her character, whilst at the same time nothing was over the top.  Azuonye’s performance was honest and the most emotionally moving of the night.

Other particular mentions should go to Louisa Mathieu, playing ‘Garden Girl’, who brought the depth and sentiment needed to her role, meaning her throwaway line ‘it’s not much of a story’ achieved the deserved audience empathy.  Philippa Mosely, as ‘Portugal’, also gave a strong performance, although perhaps presented in more of a dramatic way, she had the ability to draw the audience in, making her story relatable.

A particular favourite moment of mine was just after the beginning of the second half, with the duologue and shared song between Sarah Slimani and Fewa Olu-Martins, playing ‘Bullet’ and ‘Ex-Resident’ respectively.  Both were utterly believable characters and their natural on-stage friendship and connection brought laughter and joy to the audience.

Although never having beat-boxed before Rachelle Ojomo gave a very good attempt at the role of Jade, a person who cannot find the words to express herself and instead beat-boxes.  Ojomo impressively managed to convey meaning without the use of words.  However, I’m not sure, in the absence of a skilled and trained beat-boxer, whether the inclusion of the part was particularly necessary. 

Although it was nice to have a buzzing atmosphere when all the characters were on stage, creating the idea of the community we were getting an insight into, there were a few roles that felt superfluous in this production.  However, I feel that is due to the nature of the show.  In a similar way, I often felt the moments of song did not really work, feeling too performative in a piece that had been so focused on the natural creation of these people.  It was as if the piece itself was trying to do too much at times, using too many mediums to try and make the testimonials more interesting, when actually they would stand alone and capture attention without the songs.  However, to contradict myself, there were a few moments where the songs really worked, Azuonye and Mathieu’s songs were particularly touching and beautiful, and ‘Playing with Fire’, sung by Ojomo with Adam Evans, Mark Statham and Mosely brought dynamism and life into the scene.

Leying Lee’s directorial decision to use chalk to mark out the playing areas, and to have the scenes titles written on the back wall, worked nicely.  However I thought it could have been used more.  I would have liked to see the first half’s scene titles left on the back wall rather than rubbed out for the second half, to create a sense of the ongoing and chaotic lives of these young people.  Also to mark out a lot of spaces with chalk and then to have a huge table on stage was too much of a contrast, especially as the table was too big and in the way, adding to the slow pace of entrances.

Overall there were a few technical issues here and there, and a sense of nervousness in the first group breakfast scene which was lacking in energy, however nothing that can’t be ironed out over the next few performances. The whole cast and crew should feel a sense of pride in their honest and natural retelling of real people’s stories.  Bringing something completely new to Durham, Home is definitely worth a watch. 

26 February 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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