Edinburgh Fringe 2016
We all need a roof over our heads – but at what cost? Cate and Gia work tirelessly to pay the rent on their over-priced and run-down London flat, but that still isn’t enough to please their paranoid, controlling landlord. So, he finds another way to keep them in check…
It is Christmas, 2016. Two young women, Gia and Cate, stare out of the window of the one-room flat above a pub they can’t afford, and watch London carelessly changing as their landlord, Racken, watches them via CCTV and sends constant reminders about doing the washing up and the outstanding rent. Gia, a Polish teaching assistant, is full of hope; Cate, a 21 year old Londoner, is already hardened. Her dreams have been dashed by the exhaustion of zero-hour contracts, agencies that promise no workers’ rights, and rent that seems to never stop rising. With little time, energy or cash to spare, Gia and Cate create their own world between the four walls of their tiny room; finding comfort in each-other, humour in the visits of the ramshackle, older pub regular Pen, and hope in the idea of escape. As one of them pithily points out ‘I can’t afford to be a feminist’.
Written by Eliza Gearty, the piece is bleak and hard hitting – based directly on the experience of one of the company (22 year old Tabby Detroit), who lived in a flat above a pub in Camden installed with a CCTV camera – a place called ‘home’ where she was constantly harassed, subjected to the delusions of her older, male landlord, and, eventually, forcefully evicted. The writing is lively with well-drawn characters. However, it could be harder hitting if it were to focus on the story of the installation of the CCTV and the impact of the unseen antagonist, Racken. Detroit’s experience suggests that there is more in her story that could be used.
The cast of three (Tabby Detroit, Maria Leon, Kitt Barrie) create believable and clearly differentiated characters. There were some parts where one or more were too quiet – especially those moments when the action is set at stage level. It is unfortunate that the space (level stage and seating) means that the space the characters use to be out of range of the CCTV is also the very space that most of the audience can’t see. This is common problem for Fringe venues but worth thinking about – rethinking some of the blocking and perhaps the flat might have a couple of bar stools ‘borrowed’ from the pub downstairs?
This is a promising work by a young writer and company with a lot of scope to refine and develop the story into something really dramatic.