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Tuesday, 27 August 2013 00:00


The Shed, National Theatre, London SE1
by Will Stone

Home is where the heart is, so they say, and this youthful production by Nadia Fall reminds us that without one there's more to lose than just heart.

Aptly housed in The Shed, the giant red lego-like construct shaped like a castle outside the National Theatre, Home is all about the lives of those living and working in an east London youth hostel-cum-local housing project.

Similar to last year's National hit London Road, Nadia Fall's verbatim script, based on real life interviews with youngsters in hostels, is punctuated by upbeat songs, R&B hits, beat-boxing routines and raps, all carried out by the talented cast.

But the production is not simply a paean to how important it is to have a place to call your own. It also says a thing or two about the human need for communities, even if that community is little more than an institution.

There's no real protagonist although black teen mum, played by Michaela Coel (pictured below), takes the role of hostel tour guide.

She's joined by other teen mums with dreams of a better place to bring up their children, the support worker who enjoys the job satisfaction of seeing the residents move on, the security guard who had to end his aspiring football career due to injury and a host of boys with their own complex emotional problems.

One opens the show by singing Beyonce's Halo before admitting that he's still coming to terms with his own sexuality, while another launches into a racist tirade against the loss of Britain's identity due to multiculturalism before mentioning his Turkish girlfriend.

It's a particularly unpleasant but all too real snapshot into the psyche of paranoid Britain, fed by the front-page articles of the Daily Mail.

But it's in this dichotomy of tragedy and comedy wherein lies the production's success as it finds humour in the most unlikely of places.

The ultimate frustration, however, is that for all the intriguing Mike Leigh-style snapshots into the dreams and tough lives of those society forgot, it doesn't really offer much hope for change or that an alternative can exist.

Runs until September 7. Box office: (020) 7452-3000.

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