White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 22nd March 2018
“Jack Saville’s darkly comedic script is satirically sharp”
English teacher Tom (Chris Born) has found a spare room online and turns up to meet his potential new housemates. There’s Sam (Rob Oldham), the trainee vicar-cum-DJ on ‘Preach First’ who spins techno remixes of Jerusalem; Jenn (Flora Anderson) the hedge fund intern with a passion for graphicly violent illustration; and the alpha-housemate Sarah (Kate Newman) who is a freelance ‘writer-slash-editor’ promoting clickbait for a living who sees the Guardian as the biggest threat to the British Left. Tom’s first encounter with the housemates suggests they might not be his cup of chai tea, but with rent at only £400 a month how could he say no? It’s only after he’s moved in that he starts to think that maybe he hasn’t been told the full story about the last housemate’s sudden departure.
Writer and Director Jack Saville’s darkly comedic script is satirically sharp, poking fun at the metropolitan, millennial, liberal elite. As a self-confessed ‘paranoid millennial’, Saville has taken the sage advice to ‘write what you know’; creating characters that are exaggerated without being unbelievable. As someone who discomfortingly fits this demographic myself, I recognised plenty of friends and acquaintances in each of the housemates, resulting in many laugh out loud moments that hit close to home.
The whole cast bring this original piece to life with nuance that avoids caricature. Rob Oldham as the bumbling, pill-popping vicar has the play’s most laugh out loud lines delivered with an arresting lack of self-awareness. Kate Newman on the other hand brings a chill to the stage as the frosty Sarah, who artfully manipulates the other housemates into her submission. Flora Anderson’s Jenn’s eccentricity appears to mask insecurity whilst Chris Born as Tom is the voice of reason, and the character the audience can most sympathise with.
Set and production design by Danny Tompkins and Lucy Murray Willis is thoughtfully detailed, with empty cans of Kronenbourg and bottles of gin stood next to a carton of chocolate soya milk; and bookshelves stacked with Orwell, Owen Jones and Lonely Planet guides to the Middle East giving an insight into the characters we can expect before they even enter the stage.
Writing like this has the brilliant power to acutely mock the everyday, but the self-reference and in-jokes can be quite exclusionary. Whilst much of the comedy is universal; the unease of your early twenties; the sad realities of ‘generation rent’; if this is not your milieu, the writing will not have the same bite.
Reviewed by Amber Woodward
White Bear Theatre until 24th March 2018