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Review of HYEM (yem, hjem, home) at Theatre503

HYEM, full company, Theatre503, photo by Nick Rutter
HYEM, full company, Theatre503, photo by Nick Rutter

The Fountain Park Estate in Blyth, Northumberland doesn’t have a fountain or a park and is pretty bleak so Mick and Sylv’s home is a warm and welcoming sanctuary for the local disenfranchised young waifs and strays from the estate – or is it!

At the beginning of Hyem (Geordie for home) we meet Alan “Dummey” Dummett a 14-year-old who seems to have broken into the house and is watching porn when Sylv comes home from work and surprises him telling him that “Porn and politics. That’s all that’s ever on in this house”. They’re soon joined by two young girls, Shelly and Laura (who’ve invited Dummey in) who seem to be living in the house with the brooding, menacing figure of Dean who has a teardrop tattooed on his cheek and a pet snake called Vivienne Leigh who he feeds frozen mice to. There’s also the unseen but often heard dog called Clark Gable. Then in comes Londoner Mick, Sylv’s partner and a force of nature – at one moment kind and welcoming and the next moment, aggressive and foreboding.

It seems that Mick and Sylv are more than happy to use their home a safe place for kids. They all come from dysfunctional homes and are subject to bullying and abuse and seem happy to be there. The first half of Hyem is very funny with some wonderful lines – at times it’s almost farcical but there’s always an undertone of something not being quite right in this home away from home. Mick seems to be an ex-military man and a left-wing political activist but he says he has a Porsche in the garage and is full of contradictions. He’s taken with Dummey because he reminds him of someone called Michael who turns out to be Mick’s son. Gradually things darken and whilst there’s still humour in the interaction of the characters, events take a turn for the worse as a brick is thrown through the window and they receive hate mail aimed at Mick.

Hyem is Philip Correia’s debut play and a fine one it is. It’s a superb black comedy which at times has overtones of Joe Orton mixed in with John Godber’s brand of northern humour which is not a bad thing. It’s a rollercoaster of a ride taking in various issues such as the claustrophobia of council housing estates, bullying, child abuse, Iraq, terrorism (it’s set in 2003) and paedophilia. It does it with humour and pathos whilst pondering the various issues it addresses. There are some wonderful set-pieces especially when Vivienne Leigh goes missing and then when they don’t have lemon and salt for their tequila, they’re forced to make do with a satsuma and Canderel!

All of the cast of six are excellent. Charlie Hardwick as Sylv is very funny but with a real edge when it’s called for; why does she and Mick let these kids into their home? Patrick Driver gives Mick a veneer of welcoming bon homie but underneath it, there’s something not quite right – is he a Pied Piper leading the kids somewhere they don’t want to go? Aimee Kelly (Laura), Sarah Balfour (Shelley), Joe Blackmore (Dean) and Ryan Nolan (Dummey) are four young actors who are all perfect in their respective roles especially Nolan who’s making his professional stage debut. Jonny Kelly directs the piece with pace, energy and élan especially in the way the actors go on and off the stage during scene changes. And a special mention of Jasmine Swan’s single room set which is a delight
with the walls full of objects such as stuffed animals, pictures, and bondage gear – a cross between a musty old bric a brac shop and Anne Summers.

Hyem is on until September 23rd at Theatre 503 one of London’s best above the pub theatres – go and see it – you won’t be disappointed.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Hyem – Noun; place of family, sanctuary and comfort;
Adverb: “I’m gannin’ hyem” – I’m going home.
(Geordie/Old English/Scandinavian)

Everyone says Mick and Sylv’s is dangerous. So why does Dummey feel it’s so much like home?
Young Alan “Dummey” Dummett doesn’t fit in. He lives on the Fountain Park Estate, Northumberland, voted the second worst estate to live in Britain 1992. It doesn’t even have a fountain. Or a park.
His school…the Police…even his parents don’t want him. Nobody does.
Until he meets Mick and Sylv.

Dummey’s found a new home but one with consequences he could never imagine.
A runner up in the Papatango New Writing Prize HYEM (yem, hjem, home) is a play about belonging, broken families and finding somewhere safe in a world about to go to war.

ARTISTIC TEAM
WRITER – Philip Correia
DIRECTOR – Jonny Kelly
DESIGNER – Jasmine Swan
PRODUCER – Emma Murton
LIGHTING DESIGNER – Peter Harrison
SOUND DESIGNER – Richard Bell
STAGE MANAGER – Tomos Derrick

CAST
Patrick Driver
Charlie Hardwick
Ryan Nolan
Aimee Kelly
Joe Blakemore
Sarah Balfour

Theatre503
Booking to 23rd September 2017
https://theatre503.com/

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