Thomas W. Hodgkinson

Dealing with Clair

By Martin Crimp
Orange Tree, London

Martin Crimp’s play dares to explore an ordeal worse than divorce and more devastating than mortal illness: moving house. In this fantastically good revival at the Orange Tree, Hara Yannas and Tom Mothersdale play the nauseating upwardly mobile couple who are selling their home. Lizzy Watts is their neat, patient, morally blank estate agent, Clair. Then in steps Michael Gould as a mysterious, Mephistophelean gazumper who seems to know far more about Clair’s personal life than he should. Is he her stalker or a queasy stand-in for the author himself? At this point, the play, which has been scintillating social satire, transforms into something altogether harder to categorise. The staging — a cube wrapped in insect mesh — ingeniously boxes in the characters. The dialogue flickers like a naked lightbulb. There isn’t a dud among the cast, with Mothersdale particularly strong as an oleaginous alpha male. Overall, what’s most striking about this immorality play is that it seems to carry the same relevance and resonance today as when it was first staged in the heyday of Thatcherism. I felt sure that, in the moneyed enclave of Richmond, some audience members must have been shifting in uneasy recognition.