This new play, written by Jelena Budimir, is a political farce with lots of things to say. The characters it centres around are steeped in housing related problems and it’s seemingly all they want to talk about. There are lots of arguments, unusual plot twists and some slapstick comedy is thrown in. The situation is ultimately chaotic; yet it’s a creative illustration of the farce that the current London housing market has bred.
The waiting list for social housing in London is bursting at the seams and yet there are multiple unoccupied homes. The unemployed Lauren (Viviana Tay) and her young son Troy find themselves unsettled in temporary accommodation. That is until the Local Authority offer them a place in Hastings, 70 miles outside of London. Fed up, she decides to stage a protest by breaking into and occupying one of the empty homes. Her friends, the flamboyant millennial Lionel (Christopher Adams) and Jean (Denise Mack), who strongly laments the loss of council homes, rally alongside her.
The central conflict is between this trio of social injustice fighters and the newly divorced pair, Kendall (Chereen Buckely) and Brian (Gareth Tempest). Kendall’s firm seeks to regenerate the area through private investment and Kendall along with Brian find themselves joining forces to take down the protest by any means possible. Try as Kendall and Brian might to defend private sector involvement as the way forward, Jean, armed with statistics, will often retort and make her grave concerns on the loss of council housing known. Whilst we see these opposing sides of the debate around the state of housing play out, a love triangle (or square?) between Kendall, Brian, Lauren and possibly Lionel finds its way into the plot.
The show is certainly entertaining and as you would expect from a farce, new layers of complexity are constantly introduced into the narrative to make your head spin. It mostly maintains a quick pace, but at times it can feel weighed down as similar lines of argument are repeated to make sure that certain points really hit home. When pared back, the production seeks to give a voice to stories such as Lauren’s. As a result of reduced central government funding and increased private investment which places profit before people, thousands are being priced out of affordable homes and find themselves with a concerning lack of security and stability.
The cast give fine performances and the standout is Christopher Adams’s portrayal of Lionel. Adams perfectly heightens the melodrama of it all and and provides much needed comic relief.
At the finale, Lauren ends by saying “that’s what living in London without a house is like. No guarantees” and her words linger in the air. This play sure does make you want to scratch your head and question how we’ve ended up where we are now and wonder whether things are likely to get any better.
Property: A Farce is running at New Review Studios, London between 16 – 19 October 2019 at the time of writing.