The Good Landlord, Vault Festival

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By Laura Kressly

What would you be willing to give up to pay a mere £800 for a spacious, 2-bedroom flat with a view of St Paul’s from one room and Westminster from another? How about your privacy? Tom and Ed love the place at first sight, but Tom is rather put off by the cameras in every room that a grinning estate agent assures are for security purposes.

Though Ed enjoys the idea of being watched at all times, Tom finds the arrangement uncomfortable and disturbing. As the two friends try to settle into their new home, their awareness of the cameras has a distinct effect on them both but in totally different ways. 

As the young men unravel, we see a part of the surveillance machine at work but the entire picture, and the landlord of the play’s title, raises more answers than questions. Though the ambiguity can be frustrating from a narrative perspective, it is disturbing in its pointed presentation of a potential surveillance state. Who exactly can see them, and what is the voyeur gaining? Whilst it could just be some pervert, it could also be part of a scientific or governmental study, or something else equally insidious. These possibilities in the audiences’ imaginations are what gives the ambiguity as a device, and the story as a whole, its power.

Though the play is still somewhat skeletal and the secondary relationships are under-explored, its themes carry weight and accurately represent the desperation of an entire generation who are priced out of home ownership and forced to pay obscene amounts of money for sub-standard and insecure housing. What with the lack of regulation of the private rental market, it wouldn’t be surprising if this scenario, or one like it, would come to pass – that this story could become reality is what gives the production its secondary, but more profound, impact.

The Good Landlord runs through 10 January.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon. 

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