The National Youth Theatre’s 2017 season will include their first ever ‘East End season’ at the Yard Theatre this summer, after the sell-out success of their season of new writing at the Finborough Theatre last year.
The East End Season will feature Olivier Award-winning Jessica Swale’s Blue Stockings, the premiere of The Host, a new play commission by NYT in response to 23 June 2016 and the European refugee crisis by Nessah Muthy and the return of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
In this series of NYT Interviews we chat to the directors behind these shows and it’s the turn of Zoe Lafferty, Director of The Host.
You’re directing The Host at The Yard Theatre as part of the NYT East End season, what can you tell us about the play?
In its simplest description, The Host is the story of two young people from different worlds who form a bond, it’s a story about love, intrigue, friendship and hope. However what makes it a unique powerful play for today, is its exploration and connection of oppressive systems, that displace people and destroy lives, families and communities whether it is in Syria or down the road in Croydon.
This is the first time this play has been staged, what challenges or opportunities does that bring?
The challenge is you are stepping into the unknown with a story you are creating from scratch. It is a big leap of faith and you must trust your instincts. It doesn’t matter how much detail and work you put in you will never know how a piece works until you have it in front of an audience. As a creative experience it’s a thrilling ride.
The subject is so contemporary, how will you make sure it represents the people who are living through this situation?
Whilst Nessah has not strictly written an autobiographical piece, the domestic world of The Host is one that Nessah knows well. Nessah wanted to explore this narrative as she felt the perspective of her characters was not being heard in mainstream theatre. I believe her personal connection to the piece is reflected in the complexities of the characters she has written and the journeys they go on.
The Host also explores the story of a young male refugee from Syria called Rebea and his journey to get to the U.K. Personally I have spent time in Syria at the beginning of the uprising and war, as well as meeting refugees crossing Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary in 2015. Hopefully I have been able to inform this part if the narrative with these experiences as well as put Nessah in touch with people I have met.
We will continue through the rehearsal period to keep challenging ourselves to make sure the story has relevance, reflects the subjects it portrays truthfully and has an impact on today’s audiences.
What most excites you about working with the National Youth Theatre?
I believe the NYT looks to put marginalised narratives on stage and create a platform for young people to talk about the world they are experiencing and the challenges they face. For many years I worked in The Freedom Theatre in Palestine, a cultural movement where young people use art to fight oppression. I felt the NYT had many similarities to The Freedom Theatre and I was keen to be involved with something like this in the U.K.
What have you enjoyed most about directing a cast from the National Youth Theatre?
We haven’t begun rehearsal yet but we have an incredibly talented team who are intelligent, politically engaged and are keen to fight for change through theatre and I am looking forward to getting started.
- The National Youth Theatre present a season of three plays at The Yard Theatre from 8 – 26 August. Prasanna Puwanarajah directs The Reluctant Fundamentalist from 8 – 12 August; Alice Knight directs Blue Stockings, from 15 – 19 August and Zoe Lafferty directs The Host from 22 – 26 August.