Dealing with Clair at the Orange Tree Theatre
Martin Crimp’s Dealing with Clair explores the world of real estate in the 80s through the interaction of a lonesome man, a neurotic couple and a polite estate agent. Although the subject matter may sound uninteresting, the play is anything but, working to create an uncomfortable environment for the audience by way of masterful acting and an evocative set. This is not the kind of production one can say they enjoyed; as it progressed one grew more and more tense about the situation unfolding on stage. Although written decades ago, the piece feels remarkably contemporary in its portrayal of the dichotomy of those who have and those who don’t.
The set was perfect, both aesthetically and in the way it was used to complement the narrative. The thin netting around the stage worked to define this area as a room inside a house, while also creating a claustrophobic atmosphere for the characters. The fact that when it was removed, one could see the faces watching on the other side, captured the mismatch between the walls we spend most of our lives within and the great outdoors. There is no theatre more fitting for this piece: the intimate nature and small audience added more to the themes that the play discussed, making it feel like we were the people on that train peering into other people’s lives. The placing of the lights was careful and considered, moving in and out of white and yellow light dependent on the moments in the story, working to highlight the mood.
Clair, played by Lizzie Watts, did a wonderful job of being a polite estate agent exploring the line between what one needs to say in a professional environment and what one wants to say. The other stand-out was James, portrayed by Michael Gould, who got more sinister every time he came on stage, making one tense up whenever he said anything of an ambiguous nature. The characters were unlikeable but relatable, every awkward pause or laugh hitting just right. The script did rely heavily on repetition – of both jokes and conversation – which worked on the whole but occasionally felt off-key.
There are so many unanswered questions that one takes away with them which – while somewhat unsatisfying to someone who likes ends neatly tied – leave the themes floating around in one’s head waiting to be investigated further. Dealing with Clair is a piece of theatre that inspires discussion and exploration, making one feel perfectly unsettled.
Photo: The Other Richard
Dealing with Clair is at the Orange Tree Theatre from 26th October until 1st December 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.