Dealing With Clair - Review

Martin Crimp's play, set in the 80's, is in the main a commentary on the culture of greed that existed at that time but it also contains the elements of a thriller with its allusion to the disappearance in 1986 of estate agent, Suzy Lamplugh.

Mike and Liz want to sell their house but they want to do it in a morally responsible way - not for them gazumping. However their morality is seduced by Clair, the estate agent, with the prospect of greater profit and there was a fascination in watching their hypercritical justifications for each rise in the selling price. The writing and the acting of Neil Tollfree & Marina Norris captured well the married life of a middle-class couple wanting to move up the property ladder.

With the arrival of James, a potential purchaser, the play takes on an uneasy edge. Despite a cultured and charming persona he exudes a degree of creepiness that intensifies as the play progresses. From the amount of knowledge of her living arrangements it should have rung warning bells for Clair but one supposes that she too was blinded by greediness in wanting to close the deal and earn her commission. James becomes more and more controlling of Clair as she loses her self-assuredness and becomes trapped like the proverbial rabbit in headlamps. There were convincing performances from Piers Halliwell and Hope Henderson in these two roles.

As the Italian nanny Samantha Green maintained a convincing accent and I was impressed by her use of body language and her expressive eyes.

Paul Rowlinson was given the chance to show his acting skills with three small but diverse roles.

The play moved at a good pace under the direction of Karl Rhys and the set that provided the three locations of the action was most effective in its simplicity.

If there is anything to be negative about it is probably the length of the play itself. It was felt that the writing was a little overblown for a stand-alone play and would be better as part of a double bill. Its 1 hour 40 minutes needed to be cut in order to increase the tension. For example, unless its significance was missed by me, the scene with Ashley, the window repairer, added nothing to the plot.

Barrie Jerram
20 October 2004