Theatre 503, 30 August – 30 September. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Mick and Sylv’s house is a place of refuge for kids who don’t belong. There are parties, cigarettes and alcohol, and love and warmth, but there are also rules. When Dummey comes to the house, he thinks he has finally found a family, but his presence creates rifts and tension that lead to the real world intruding into the misfits’ home.
Set on a fictional estate in Northumberland in 2003, Philip Correira’s debut play shows great promise, with a sharp and fast-moving script that twists about enough to keep the audience guessing what Mick’s motives are as he grows closer to Dummey, the doppelganger of his son, Michael. The character of Dean, mostly silent or monosyllabic in the early part of the play, creates an increasing atmosphere of unease and foreboding, with dark comments about what everyone is saying about Mick on the estate.
The play is episodic, but the swift scene changes and shifts in tone match the chaotic lives of the characters. The set is simply brilliant – think of your dotty great aunt’s front room, full of tat and knick knacks but with added handcuffs and dildos for decoration.
Charlie Hardwick is fantastic as Sylv. Deliciously dry and snarky, but full of love for Mick and the kids, Hardwick is at her best when Sylv feels threatened. The façade slips and you realise that it’s Sylv who’s set all the rules as you see the fear in her eyes as she does whatever she can to protect Mick.
Patrick Driver’s Mick completely creeped me out when he was around Dummey, but I don’t know if that says more about me than the actor. (Too many safeguarding training days attended – had to keep telling myself that it was just a play!) Driver shifts from menacing to childlike in a heartbeat, making Sylv’s love for the mercurial character more believable. The younger cast members all shine, and bring a wonderful energy to the play. Ryan Nolan is sweet and vulnerable as Dummey, with a fantastic repertoire of gormless facial expressions. Aimee Kelly gives the self-obsessed Laura a lovely warmth. Joe Blakemore is superb as Dean, allowing the scared, abandoned teenager within to slowly emerge, and Sarah Balfour steals every scene as Shelley – full of wild eyed innocent honesty, and speaking with no filter at all.
HYEM has a huge heart and has lots to say about the meaning of family and the effects and danger of public opinion and rumours without overegging the pudding, but I must admit to a little disappointment at the ending. Charlie Hardwick gives a barnstorming rant, but the Michael explanation felt a little wishy-washy after the rest of the play’s ballsiness.
HYEM is a feisty and clever debut play that will make you squirm and laugh out loud in equal measure – well worth a look.