The Lost Boy, which opened last night is the new production from Theatre in the Quarter and runs until the 7th May at St Mary’s Creative Space. Written by Stephanie Dale, the play tackles the topical issue of refugees and at cast run through earlier this month impressed me with its politically charged and emotional themes. We met the musical director Matt Baker and the Lost boy himself, actor Andrei Costin to find out more.
Matt Baker : “The piece has been 2 years in development, originally it came from work I had been doing with young people in and around Chester, and I worked with some children in writing a song loosely about refugees. That really started to bring the issue of refugees into my focus and made me realise that there was a story to be told. We only get to hear and understand about refugees and asylum seekers through headlines. Those headlines only give us one idea about what refugees might be, they’re behind barbed wire in Calais. Perhaps we don’t really understand that there are humans behind those headlines. I felt that we really needed to tell this story. ”
Through a link up with City of Sanctuary, a charity responsible for the welfare of people coming into the UK, the production team were able to involve real life refugees in the creative process. “The starting point was their stories, and going into schools in Chester and finding out people’s perceptions of refugees. ” says Matt. The stories of the real refugees have been used in the play and bought to life “in a really wonderful way”.
The play is set post Brexit vote in December 2016, and the character of Frank (played by Jonathan Markwood) espouses the “take back control” philosophy. However Matt stresses that the play doesn’t intend to tell people how they should respond or feel, simply to raise awareness of t the issues. “We decided to set this piece in a town like an other in Britain where people have hopes, dreams and fears and where people are passionate about where they live.”
Entering the lives of the characters in the fictional sea side town is the Lost Boy, Karem.
He is “more than just a headline” says Matt, “he is a boy that is musical, magical and becomes a great friend to Maddie (played by Jill McAusland) who is one of the key protagonists in the story. ”
Actor Andrei Costin: “My agent sent me to the audition. I found the script very current and interesting. The theme resonated with my beliefs and I was very drawn to it from the beginning. I came to the UK seven years ago to go to drama school. I went to Birmingham school of acting. From there I have started acting in theatre, doing The Kite Runner and I have done a few other shows around the country and in London.
“I haven’t been to Chester before, I find it very lovely. I have enjoyed exploring , especially with Jill who plays Maddie , we have been to so many restaurants and pubs! We saw The Passion as well. ”
Of the venue in St Mary’s, Andrei says it is different from the West End theatres he normally performs in. “Its an unconventional space. But its amazing , its a church, it feels right for this place, its quite solemn. What the whole team have done with the set and the lighting its amazing how they have transformed the space. ”
Matt Baker : “We are in exciting times because Storyhouse is just about to open. I am really hoping that the whole city are behind the opening. As part of that I am very proud that St Mary’s creative space can become that thriving sister venue, a hub of community and professional high quality work. It’s a really good reminder that we have this and other venues in the city. I would like to think of Storyhouse as being the sun which will shine on the “planets” , with those planets being St Mary’s, The Forum studio theatre, Chester Little theatre, Alexander’s, Chester Cathedral, Telfords warehouse.. the Town Hall. It can illuminate and shed new light on all of these venues and give them a bit more of a spotlight so that people come to Chester and see that there is a thriving cultural scene and that St Mary’s is a significant player in the cultural renaissance.
“Its wonderful to have Stephanie Dale who has done an awful lot of work already around the theme of refugees and has experience of Chester , because she wrote the Chester Mystery plays in 2013. Also, Kate McGregor , our director . She’s thrilled that she features as numbers 1 and 4 in the Chronicle’s list of things to do this weekend. Her piece Gabriel which is about the Nazis in Guernsey , which has been wonderfully reviewed is at Theatre Clywd this weekend! ”
Concluding, Andrei comments : “I feel Chester is a very special place because of the community and what Theatre in the Quarter does , I’ve met some amazing people and you can see its a team effort. I am doing another run of The Kite Runner in the summer in the West End. It’s amazing , its rare that actors have work one after another, so this has come as a gift.”
Ticket details for The Lost Boy available here http://theatreinthequarter.co.uk/
Tuesday nights show will include a chance to meet the creative team as well as Jeff Morgan, senior trustee of City of Sanctuary