Strong performances elevate Michael Ross’ play The Good Landlord at the VAULT Festival
“We can see Big fucking Ben from the kitchen window and its only £400 a month”
Michael Ross’ The Good Landlord opens with Tom and Ed at a flat viewing that feels too good to be true – amazing central location, a pittance of a rent, and a benevolent landlord determined to make this kind of London living affordable for recent graduates. “What’s the catch” they jokingly ask the letting agent and sure enough one emerges, as security cameras have been installed throughout the property and won’t ever been turned off.
Thus the scene is set to tackle the growing surveillance state and London’s housing crisis, particularly for renters, and Cat Robey’s production is a fresh and occasionally funny take on this. Maximillian Davey’s introverted Tom recoils from every potential move captured on camera and Rupert Sadler’s wildly gregarious Ed pretty much revels in it, lapping up the perceived attention as if it is the audition of a lifetime.
There’s also a lot more packed into The Good Landlord which leaves it feeling tonally unsure and a little overcrowded. A strand of body dysmorphia feels somewhat mishandled, and the emergence of twisty thriller elements prove a little jarring especially given how little we know these characters, particularly the late arriving Bryony (an appealing Tiwalade Ibirogba-Olulode).
Davey and Sadler play their contrasting characters well though, and there’s a brilliant turn from Phoebe Batteson-Brown’s Clarissa – who really does know it all – sharply witty and icily efficient, she’s the kind of compelling, disquieting presence that you just can’t keep your eyes off.