Play Review: Host

“Do you think you can be too close to someone?”, Julia asks her English tutor, Fay, over a zoom lesson.

The question bears relevance in the context of the play’s narrative and in the context in which the play has been written – the Covid pandemic we are currently living.

Fay is unsure of what Julia means and dismisses her question, but soon enough she starts picking up on the hints Julia keeps dropping. Slowly she realises that Julia is being kept inside her house against her will by her two over-controlling parents. It is now up to Fay to try to help her, despite the warnings from Julia’s parents.

Host, from Danse Macabre Productions, was written by Sam Essame and directed by Lisa Millar. Fay is played by Annemarie Anang and Julia by Gracie Peters. Both actresses deserve high praise for their roles.

Anang conveys genuine worry for Julia, and Peters manages to draw us in into Julia’s world, making us truly scared for her.

Julia’s parents, Graham (Daniel Robinson) and Zara (Rebecca McKinnis), are proper villains – their wickedness is shown by their lack of empathy for Julia and for their dismissal of Fay’s attempts in helping.

Having said that, are they really? And is Julia really the helpless victim here? And since we’re suspecting everyone… who is Fay really concerned in protecting – herself or Julia?

Much of these questions are posed by Essame’s ambiguous writing. He begins by establishing Julia and Fay’s relationship and clearly positioning the father as the evil one.

Every character embodies who they are supposed to be through the acting and through the writing – we do not question it. There’s no reason to question it.

Once Zara comes into the story, she serves to augment this schism between evil parents and helpless daughter/heroic tutor. However, with the introduction of supernatural elements Essame, together with Millar’s direction, destroys our expectations of the story and leaves us asking just what went down with the characters in the past leading up to this moment, and what will happen to them in the future.

Host was really entertaining – it managed to build up expectations and sustain an eerie atmosphere throughout. So much so that the slightest change of lights was enough to send the characters, as well as myself, into a frenzy of “what’s that, who’s that, what’s going on?”.

Now, these answers are not necessarily answered but, personally, I don’t feel that the lack of answers is detrimental to the story.

The answers themselves are what we make of them and, sometimes, that makes it much scarier.

By Bruna Foletto Lucas

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