Home, last summer's sell-out returns to the NT Shed highlighting the plight of the homeless youth of London. After six months it seems that very little has changed, with the number of homeless Londoners ever rising. On press night, hours before curtain, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor published his report on a police force he called "damaged". The report is an indictment of a broken system, the very same genesis of Home which was written in the wake of the 2011 London riots.
Tracking the trials of several young homeless people forced to find shelter in fictional council estate ‘Target East', Home is based on 30 hours of interviews with vulnerable people in hostels. As you would expect, these characters are varied and unique, from Kadiff Kirwan's heartfelt singing hopeful to Antonia Thomas' heart-breaking Eritrean immigrant. Toby Wharton is outstanding, continuing his magnificent work on FOG with two perfectly weighted roles as a homeless gardener and furious fascist youth. There is a palpable sense of energy throughout Nadia Fall's production, with the cast bouncing off each other and truly living their multiple roles as they relate their efforts to find a comfortable, secure home.
The characters answer the queries of an interviewer who is always silent and invisible. It is a masterstroke to leave this interviewer hanging in the ether as it forces the audience to become that silent participant. The questions become those of the audience as they are given direct insight into the very real and very relatable stories that force someone to go from comfortable in a home to wandering the streets.
The set contributes to this feeling, forcing us to walk through to the stage in the same way that the characters enter the housing estate. Through a window behind the we see the ‘Target East' reception lobby and also our own exit back to the Southbank. It's an atmosphere that becomes claustrophobic at times, not allowing anyone to make that exit from the problems endemic in estates like this.
Musical numbers punctuate the stories and allow a release of tension, with Grace Savage in particular demonstrating her truly phenomenal beatboxing skills. Some of these songs from artists such as Rihanna and Beyoncé are, however, somewhat contrived. The use of overly sentimental ballads can actually undermine the vital nature of these unique stories, which should not be distilled into pop cliché.
An audience that largely looks different to the down-trodden minorities of ‘Target East' is given an insight into how much luck (or lack thereof) determines the path their lives will take. As more housing benefit cuts start to bite, the NT is doing well to highlight the plight of young homeless and hopefully it will inspire more audiences to seek out these stories being told in similar projects and spaces across the country.
Home continues at NT Shed until 30 April 2014