Deposit at Hampstead Theatre
Following a run in 2015, Hampstead Theatre relaunches Matt Hartley’s Deposit, a play about the absurd struggles of climbing the property ladder. The script’s relevance cannot be questioned, as the housing crisis will likely remain a hot topic for some time. The ever-rising house prices do not completely deter young people from trying to buy, and Hartley uses the real-life experiences of friends to draw attention to the issue.
Rachel and Ben dream of owning a flat, but they are put off by the daunting prospect of the expenses involved. They decide that the best fast-track into the game is to rent a one-bedroom flat for a year, and sublet the living space, with its sofa-bed, to their friends Melanie and Sam, who are also eager to buy their own place. Sacrificing their privacy proves to be an equally high price to pay, but their dream of becoming property owners is greater than the discomfort, for a time at least.
Sold as a necessary milestone of adult life, home-owning has become an obsession so forcibly instilled in people’s minds that they often do not question the absurd compromises they make just to nominally attach their name to a property. Deposit, unfortunately, does not make the most of the tragicomical potential, and instead relies on a long series of petty arguments that culminate in generic complaints of a socio-political nature.
A sense of awkwardness prevails from start to finish. First, when the protagonists (two of whom supposedly “best friends for 15 years”) address each other like acquaintances who perhaps dislike one another. Later, the arguments fail to rise beyond immature insults and accusations, meaning that the experience for the audience is akin to watching a playground brawl rather than a stimulating conflict. In between scenes, random choreographies by the actors break whatever momentum is building, and have a school-play feel about them.
The set consists of a bed and a sofa-bed propped on a shiny floor made of one-penny coins. On the sides, jars filled with small change reinforce the idea that money is the plague and addiction of those sharing the house. Sadly, the couples are all-too-easy to pigeon-hole: the privileged versus the working class, Right wing versus Left, materialistic versus idealistic, optimists versus pessimists, and so on. The cast does try to make the anxiety come alive, but it is too clear that the characters are mere vessels used to voice opposing ideals.
The play deals with a subject full of potential but does not express anything new or profound, and it also fails to amuse on a superficial level, bar a few passages.
Photo: Robert Day
Deposit is at Hampstead Theatre from 11th May until 10th June 2017, for further information or to book visit here.