Philip Correia’s debut play HYEM (yem, hjem, home) starts performances tonight (30 August 2017) at London’s Theatre503, with a cast led by Patrick Driver and Emmerdale‘s Charlie Hardwick as Mick and Sylv. Here, Correia explains how the play is inspired by society’s craving for comfort and belonging in a time of anger, inequality and growing uncertainty…
12th August 2017, the leader of the free world is roundly criticised for not condemning ‘Alt-right’ protesters at a Charlottesville rally. A message of division, fear, of political shock tactic and Twitter based uproar, that has become a familiar trope of the Trump presidency. Trump is the perfect clown and the ultimate symptom. The very embodiment of the material, individualistic, desires, which drive many of our societies. But what of the very real people who voted for Trump, or those who spout neo-nazi views in Charlottesville and in Europe? It’s impossible to sympathise with their political position, but it’s so important to acknowledge their anger. An anger based in fear, poverty and disenfranchisement.
Closer to home 37.5% of people voted to leave the EU. It is widely acknowledged that some of the basis for that vote was protest, anger and unfairness. As Adam Curtis points out, the individualism of the sixties, the divide and rule of the 1980s, destruction of industry and a move towards the financial sector was part of this anger. The fact that 60% of the world’s population lives on less than £5 dollars a day is reflected in the insanity of a growing poverty gap in the UK. No less destructive was the impatience felt with auto-charm, robotic ‘New’ Labourites, lying to us about wealth, war and weapons of mass destruction.
Across the world, this familiar message; division, anger, despair, poverty, unfairness and disenchantment. Theresa ‘immigrants go home’ May was once seen as some sort of safe pair of hands.
Society, we must conclude, must be in an awfully disenchanted state of despair at the system, which increases the wealth of the rich and maintains the poverty of the poor.
I believe that fear is insidious in our everyday lives. Who does live next door? Our suspicion of the different and the out of line. The market is terrified of change and risk and so are we. The populace long for the halcyon days of unlocked doors and children’s innocence, yet we clamp down on any teacher hoping to adapt to circumstance, we terrify them in fact, not to hug or love our offspring.
Our media can lead the way in our manhunt of the marginal. A Portuguese waiter in the McCann case? GUILTY. Christopher Jefferies, a well-meaning, if unconventional, friendly man. GUILTY of murder! The message of division from the top reiterates time after time to turn in those we are suspicious of. We long so much for home, for comfort and for our own sanctuary, in a frightening and patently unfair world, we are unable to take risks or imagine change.
As Naomi Klein noted in the early 2000s, in the commercial world, brands are doing their utmost to seem old-fashioned, friendly, safe and individual. Today ‘Craft’ beer, an excuse to charge people for carbonated bitter, explodes into our pubs and corner shops. LP sales continue to rise and the Great British Family Craft Baked Knit Throw Down storms our screens. Homegrown, organic, local are must-haves at the top table of any discerning gourmet. A leftist movement of community and, unfortunately, nationalism is springing up across our planet. Big business wants to be local, friendly, lifestyle and community-based, so that must mean we want it?
On a micro level, Sure Start centres were targeted by the forces of austerity. Mental health budgets are being slashed. Youth centres decline and imaginative charities, working on an individual level, with local communities are disappearing, or under so much strain trying to pick up the slack of austerity.
Mick and Sylv’s house, the location for my play HYEM, is such a place that is trying to plug the gap, left by the real world. In the play, Mick and Sylv know that beneficial, educational experiences don’t always come in an obvious safe environment.
Paddy Campbell’s brilliant Wet House and Nadia Fall’s exceptional Home were two plays about such idiosyncratic rooms of refuge. Mick and Sylv worry about where the local kids will go, kids who can’t possibly access the middle-class merry-go-round of home, Uni, job, safe home, kids, good school, uni, safe home etc. Where are the sanctuaries for those souls outside the system? They are the angry. They are the future disenchanted. They are the poor. Where is their aid? It’s At Mick and Sylv’s.
Yet in the play, there is a movement to destroy the haven provided by the couple. The same trickle-down fear of Jefferies et al, prompts attacks like that on the paediatrician’s house because he’s a ‘paedo’.
HYEM is about a working-class community in the North East. Young people there and in cities like Glasgow, Manchester, Middlesbrough and in the South West are the very epitome of those that suffer society’s cold shoulder in this country. They are targeted by the fearmongers and picked on by the financial elite. Those people need a home. That home is Mick and Sylv’s.
HYEM continues at London’s Theatre503 until 30 September 2017, before transferring to Northern Stage on 20 and 21 October.