WhatsOnStage Logo


The NT Shed hosts Nadia Fall's new play, asking what it really means to call somewhere home

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
WhatsOnStage logo
Michaela Coel
© Elli Kurttz

Not to be confused with David Storey's elegiac 1970 study of residents in an old folks' home, Nadia Fall's ebullient production – the latest in a line of lively experimental new work in the NT's red Shed – starts at the other end, with the stories of young homeless Londoners caught in the safety net of an East End hostel's housing project.

Such places, we are told by Ashley McGuire's terrific, deadpan, straight-talking social worker, Sharon, are under serious threat from local government cuts.

"Target East" is part drop-in shelter, part social and rehabilitation centre. The approach is "holistic," Sharon proudly declares, looking at education and training opportunities too. She's more a psycho-social worker, she says. A drug dealer has called by, defending his trade by saying he's "doin' my thing, innit;" he didn't stay long.

Fall carried out over 30 hours of interviews with single mothers, wannabe rap singers, security guards, pregnant teenagers, an Eritrean girl whose tale is a documentary film in itself, a white boy who's discovered the joys of gardening.

These testimonies are vivid and sometimes poetic. But the most striking element in the show is the music, a restless, noisy mash up of rhythm and blues, rap and beat-boxing, the latter the province of beautiful Grace Savage, who provides an incredible blizzard of noise and rhythm in her microphone, even conducting conversations with the others, and providing telephone rings and love-life sympathy.

I've seen quite a lot of this type of work, which usually comes into the categories of "schools" and "other voices"; this is an excellent example of the almost exclusively working-class, deprived, inner city programme, but raised to a slightly higher level, as befits the NT, thanks to Fall's skill and the contributions of designer Ruth Sutcliffe and music director Gareth Valentine.

And, as usual in this area of work, there's not really a play, or a dramatic convulsion, at the end of it – though reactions to a boy's stabbing in the Westfield shopping centre top and tail the proceedings – more a series of separate resolutions.

But that's not really the point. The point is the minute by minute intensity of detail and experience, the flash of inter-action and the considerable vivacity of the performers.

These include, apart from the beat-boxing Savage, Michaela Coel's affecting Young Mum, Kadiff Kirwan's delightful Singing Boy (deflecting an initial suspicion that we were watching the X-Factor as he unleashed Beyonce's "Halo"), Shakka's electrifying rapper Bullet (Shakka shares a composer credit with Tom Green) and Trevor Michael Georges' hilarious, moon-faced security guard, who also plucks a mean acoustic guitar.