'Home' review or 'There's no place like it.'

'Home', Nadia Fall
The Shed, 22nd April 2014


I’m not sure there is a single pause or scene break in Nadia Fall’s excellent verbatim show, ‘Home’. The play is set in a fictional hostel in East London and is based on over 30 hours of interviews with real-life hostel residents. Scenes slide over and into each other, the actors dance, sprint and swagger through the space and original music is scattered throughout. This is a lively beast of a show, which expertly taps into the anxieties, energies and vibrant personalities bound up in hostel life.

Verbatim shows have a horrible habit of drying up and fracturing down the middle but director Nadia Fall, who collaborates regularly with young people, has injected her show with wit, spirit and a whole lot of live music. Fall has done a brilliant job of tuning into the young adults who live at the hostel, as well as the staff who look after them. They are motley, ballsy and thoughtful crew, who are reflected with clarity and compassion in this open-hearted but hard-hitting production.

The tone of the show is as unpredictable and varied as the hostel residents. Quiet dark scenes nestle alongside fizzing comedy acts, raging monologues, fierce rap numbers, witty beat boxing turns and moving sermons.  The scenes are short and fractured and frequently cut across each other; one actor sits still whilst another sings from the balcony and a man stalks dangerously in the background.

There’s a natural humour to ‘Home’, which stops it from feeling judgemental or sentimental. One resident earnestly discusses the drug issues at the hostel and worries her ‘baby might be buzzing’ from the fumes in the lift. Another resident lets off a hateful monologue about a Britain that he believes is overrun with immigrants. It’s a horrible and sad speech but the phrasing, so frank and unfiltered, flickers with humour even as it shocks; ‘Did you read on the news yesterday? The majority is now the minority!’

Fall layers her piece deftly and is careful to show both sides of the story, often at the same time. So whilst the hostel manager (played with such empathy and humour by Ashley McGuire) might be talking about a burgeoning sense of community, an unwanted guest lurks angrily in the foyer. As two friends comfort each other, a frightened victim sprints around the edge of the stage. Respite and anger, humour and hatred, love and rejection jostle cheek by jowl, wrestling for attention, space and respect.

The dialogue, lifted from real life, is loaded with the extra meaning and the suggestion of those hidden lives, lived off stage. Phrases hang heavy with awful scenes we have not witnessed but can imagine. One kid (Kadiff Kirwan, the sparkle in this production’s eye) remembers the angry atmosphere back home and with one packed phrase – ‘that man’ – hints at a violent past he is trying to forget. Another girl (the vibrant Michaela Coel) recalls her relationship with her mum and knocks us out with just one line: ‘I don’t call her mum.’

There’s an urgent pulse to ‘Home’ that is exhilarating and energizing and unsettling. The constant movement forward, the criss-crossing scenes and surging music, suggests the residents’ and carers’ struggle to keep on top of things (‘Keep up with the tempo, with the click!’). It feels like every scene, character and song could be snatched away at any point and we are reminded of the carer’s warning to his charge: ‘This isn’t your home. It’s only moment.’ 

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