Disturbing Satire Of The Housing Market Is Spookily Topical In Dealing With Clair

Dealing with Clair, Orange Tree Theatre ★★★★☆

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

Disturbing Satire Of The Housing Market Is Spookily Topical In Dealing With Clair Dealing with Clair, Orange Tree Theatre 4
Photo: The Other Richard

Martin Crimp’s Dealing with Clair is part satire on the dodgy dealings of the housing market and part disturbing mystery thriller. Not only does it still seem highly topical, but by chance, this revival by the Orange Tree Theatre — which first staged the play in 1988 — coincides with new investigations into the murder of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh who had disappeared two years earlier.

Clair is a young London estate agent who prides herself on being able to “deal” with people in difficult, even aggressive, situations between buyers and sellers. It’s a cut-throat free-market world where moral values are sold out to property prices.

Photo: The Other Richard

The play extracts much humour from exposing the hypocrisy of yuppie couple Mike and Liz who claim they want to behave “honourably” but actually want to get the most money for the house they are selling regardless of ethics. They have already accepted an offer but when it is “gazumped” by cash-rich businessman James, their principles go out of the window.

However, the mood darkens after James makes predatory moves towards Clair, so that her previous words “Maybe make a killing… and just disappear” take on an eerie prescience.

Photo: The Other Richard

Lizzy Watts suggests the vulnerability beneath Clair’s professional veneer, while Michael Gould gives James a subtly creepy intrusiveness. Tom Mothersdale and Hara Yannas are deliciously awful as the materialistic middle-class Mike and Liz who claim a windowless cupboard is a fourth bedroom, where their exploited Italian teenage nanny sleeps.

Director Richard Twyman skilfully balances the comedy and the tension, with Fly Davis’s box-like set draped in gauze so that the audience feel like voyeurs peeping into private lives.

Dealing with Clair, Orange Tree Theatre, 1 Clarence Street, Richmond TW9 2SA. Tickets £25, until 1 December 2018.

Last Updated 05 November 2018