Review: 'Sinister' Dealing With Clair play at St Albans' Abbey Theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:14 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:14 16 October 2019

Company of Ten's production of Dealing with Clair at the Abbey Theatre Studio. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre

Company of Ten's production of Dealing with Clair at the Abbey Theatre Studio. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre

Abbey Theatre

Madeleine Burton reviews Company of Ten's current production of Dealing With Clair at the Abbey Theatre Studio.

Company of Ten's production of Dealing with Clair at the Abbey Theatre Studio. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey TheatreCompany of Ten's production of Dealing with Clair at the Abbey Theatre Studio. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre

Property prices and trains - probably staple fare at many a dinner party across the St Albans district in recent years.

And those two subjects, particularly the former, are at the heart of the Company of Ten's current production, Martin Crimp's Dealing with Clair in the Abbey Theatre Studio.

But the similarity to dinner party chatter ends there because this sinister play, despite its touches of humour, tears into middle class greed and self-satisfaction as sellers Liz and Mike forsake their early pledge to play fair with would-be buyers in order to push up the value of their house and reap the benefits.

We meet Clair, the estate agent tasked with selling their des res, in her tiny flat where her attempts to talk to her mother on the phone are drowned out by trains screaming past.

Company of Ten's production of Dealing with Clair at the Abbey Theatre. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey TheatreCompany of Ten's production of Dealing with Clair at the Abbey Theatre. Picture: Nick Clarke / Abbey Theatre

But Clair is a real professional, particularly when James, the potentially perfect prospective purchaser of the couple's house, appears in the frame.

And as similarities with the 1980s case of Suzy Lamplugh, the missing London estate agent, become increasingly apparent, the glare of those very trains that blight her flat are used impressively to bring a Hitchcockian element to the production.

Lillie Prowse is particularly good in the role of Clair, professional even as she finds James and his interest in her increasingly menacing.

She is matched by Georgia Choudhuri as the spoiled wife Liz who doesn't work but employs au pair Anna, Louisa Bicknell, who sleeps in the couple's 'fourth' bedroom, to look after her child.

Husband Mike, played by Jack Kenward, is fascinated by Clair but no match for his wife.

Veteran Company of Ten actor Lester Adams brings an air of growing menace to the role of supposed art dealer James, the cash buyer who fixates on Clair and to a lesser extent Liz.

And although he only takes three small roles, Zodiac O'Neill is particularly smooth and convincing in the part of Toby, Clair's estate agent colleague.

Dealing with Clair was written in the late 1980s when house prices were exploding and director Martin Goodman successfully ensures it slots seamlessly into the world 30 years later.

The production dips slightly in places but it is to his credit and that of the cast that those moments are easy to skim over and move on.

Dealing with Clair runs until this Saturday, October 19, and tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

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