London. Bleak. The rent is due. And last months. Yasmin is working class. Only two things concern her: money and family. Living on a diet of cheesestrings and chocolate, firecracker Yasmin (Rebekah Murrell) works two jobs just to stay above the poverty line. Her three sisters, hysterical Nat (Jesse Bateson), hard-nut Pearl (Isabella Verrico) and naïve Hayley (Taylor Keegan) are at a loss. In debt, grieving for their mother and desperate to find a way to remain in their homes, the sisters depend on Yasmin to be the brains to the solution. She balances the world on her shoulders. The poor lending from the poor. Beneath the rock-solid exterior of Yasmin hides a lonely young woman, silently disappointed with the hand life dealt her. After chasing off a violent gang from a beaten up Rabea (Zakaria Douglas-Zerouali), Yasmin discovers the man to be a doctor - and a Syrian Refugee. Fighting her urge to repel anything different, religious, foreign - she tentatively offers him a sofa, and begins to care for the kindred spirit. With a mind unknowingly desperate to be opened, Yasmin shares tales of loss and heartache with Rabea and finds in him her first true friend.
Directed by Zoe Lafferty and written by Nessah Muthy, the piece is snappy, raw and bursting with life. With a delightfully female heavy ensemble, the words pierce and overlap with a pace that effortlessly chops and changes. With a character as fierce and complicated as Yasmin, Rebekah Murrell is intensely likable. She provides a masterclass in being present as the character and lives the truth of each moment. Like a firework she brings a vivacious energy to the piece and propels it forward. A lump appears in the throat when Yasmin gives her struggling sister her last loaf of bread, a moment of such heart-breaking reality and tenderness. The set is simple and resembles a cheap London flat complete with tiny, tattered, almost-empty fringe. The actors are comfortable in their world, and move through the space with ease, aiding the naturalism of the play. The actors sometimes step off the stage, rather than through the ‘hallway’, breaking the convention and therefore illusion of the flat. Once again, the National Youth Theatre proves its outstanding track record for finding the brightest young actors; the youthful ensemble are focused and professional, cleaning up spillages on stage during difficult and busy scenes whilst remaining completely in character.
This thought-provoking piece of drama poses many questions: what is it to be ‘totally English’? Does family come first, above all else? How much of the past can be erased, in order to live a better life? How long until this brilliant piece of theatre is on a west end stage? - Faye Butler