The Lost Boy is the latest production from Theatre in the Quarter. 2 years in development the play emerged from work done by musical director Matt Baker with local schools. A play for today’s troubled times, The Lost Boy , acted by a cast of 4 professional actors and a community chorus tackles the topical issue of the worldwide refugee crisis, as well the response to the 2016 EU referendum. Tuesday’s press night began with a chance to meet the creative team as well as some real life refugee’s whose stories were the inspiration for the play. Jeff Morgan of City of Sanctuary was also in attendance, noting the historical attitudes towards refugees, pondering if they have changed over the centuries and also looking for the facts behind alarmist headlines about refugees. Review by Rachel O Kelly :
Last night, I was invited by that Chester based Twitter account to attend a theatre production in the beautiful St Mary’s Centre in Chester
Now, I have to be honest here, it’s not somewhere I had ever been to before, and when I stumbled across the building I had to ask myself why? And made a promise to myself to make sure I visit again, and again.
Not only is the former church impressive from the outside, it also feels as if you’re stepping back in time as you walk through the pretty cobbled streets leading up to it. Once inside, the size of the church although impressive with its high ornate ceilings and gothic architecture, it didn’t feel overwhelming or imposing. It still felt like a comfortable, inviting and intimate space, and I can see why it is so popular with theatre and musical productions both large and small.
The Lost Boy written by Stephanie Dale, and directed by Kate McGregor is an emotional and thought provoking piece of theatre highlighting the current refugee crisis, and it kept me awake thinking about it long after I went to bed.
Telling the tale of Karem, a teenage boy who finds himself fleeing his home in war torn Syria. Leaving behind everything and everyone he knew and loved to be free, and to be safe. Karem is played by Andrei Costin whose performance was simply spell bounding, and whose voice simply blew the audience away.
Through Karem we hear stories of other children in similar circumstances, and what we hear and see on stage are their true first hand, personal accounts. These were their stories and their experiences and Theatre in the Quarter worked closely alongside the charity City of Sanctuary to deliver them.
Producer Jo McLeish had said earlier in the evening, that one of the aims of the play was to “show the human behind the headlines” and The Lost Boy most certainly delivers.
Karem is first seen hiding on the beach injured and starving, in a small, close knit fishing town I almost feel I’ve been to on holiday many times before. He is discovered by grumpy teenager Maddie who is excellently portrayed by Jill McAusland, I honestly believed every eye roll, foot stamp and exasperated sigh! As well as every shoulder slump, fear of saying the wrong thing, nervous bundle of energy that was her Mum. And to every Mum of a teenage daughter I’m sure, achingly identifiable and played by Victoria Brazier.
We see that the town is in its decline. The cinema has closed down and the theatre. Jobs are scarce, money is tight and people are worried. They are desperately holding on to the past ‘the way things were’ with the rotary club meetings and the swift pint afterwards. The Christmas lights switch on and annual choir performance, and no one more so than Maddie’s Dad, with a very strong performance by Jonathan Markwood as Frank.
I felt his desperation and his frustration not only his words, but he carried them with every step he took on stage. We could see felt like a failure, he had lost not one but two jobs and neither by any true fault of his own. He had a family he wanted to provide for, to look after and he simply couldn’t. When that happens it makes you afraid, it makes you feel worthless and that makes you angry and bitter, and Frank encompassed all those things.
I veered from feeling desperately sorry for him, to feeling uncomfortable and angry with his words. The blame for the town’s decline was placed firmly on the shoulders of refugees. “Coming over here taking our jobs” “Invading us” Frank cries in a march with his band of angry villagers holding placards, chanting and cheering alongside him.As if it’s almost safer, stronger to be angry about all of those things together, they don’t feel so alone in their fear.
But his fear, his unwillingness to listen, to learn and be open finally alienates himself from his wife and daughter and he finds himself alone, leaving his home and his family. Like Karem, leaving behind those he loved and wanted to protect.
Despite Claire and Maddie being unsure at first, tentative, a little afraid. They learn about Karim, they listen to his story, they look beyond the dirty clothes, the desperation and see who he was before. I think sometimes we are all guilty of not doing this sometimes, myself included. When I open a newspaper and see the pictures of refugees in Calais, and Syria am I always really looking at the people? The individuals that find themselves there? And no, it’s not by choice, don’t listen to the crap you overhear on the Bus. Do you? I know I don’t, not always.
I hope that will change because, that needs to change and what the Lost Boy is trying to do, try to change the opinion of a Frank and one of his rotary club mates. It wants to spark a conversation, a debate. It wants to challenge opinion, to open our eyes and as Jo said to show us the human behind the headline.
It achieves all those things and more in the most beautiful way. I honestly don’t think there was a dry eye in our row.
I have to say beyond the main cast, I could not take my eye off each and every other member of the cast from the choir, the young children running around, the protesters and the musicians. Each and every one played their part with such conviction, what a team.
With thanks to Matt Baker and Erin Elston, Theatre in the Quarter and reviewer Rachel O Kelly.
The Lost Boy runs until 7th May. Tickets here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/creativemarys
More info here : https://thechesterblog.com/2017/04/22/the-lost-boy/