Trap Street review at New Diorama, London – ‘compelling and intelligent’

The cast of Trap Street at New Diorama, London. Photo: Harry Yeatman The cast of Trap Street at New Diorama, London. Photo: Harry Yeatman
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With 2016 show Still Ill, collaborative collective Kandinsky explored the paradoxical pressures of psychosomatic illness with insight and intelligence. With Trap Street, they apply the same sensitive approach to a timely new topic – housing.

Over 80 minutes, co-writers Lauren Mooney and James Yeatman, together with a three-strong devising cast, plot the rise and fall of a fictional east London tower block – Pemberley House on the Austen Estate – through the eyes of one single-parent family.

We see them move into a new council flat in the 1970s, settle down and sink roots, and we see the grown-up daughter in the present day, stubbornly squatting in a near-empty building that’s crumbling around her.

Trap Street slips between these two time-periods seamlessly throughout, slotting in documentary snippets and small skits around the edges, and somehow managing to squeeze the entire history of post-war housing into one show.

It’s all here. Right to buy and buy to let. Exploitative landlords and vacuous realtor jargon. Affordable housing and overseas investors. The origins of the housing crisis, spread out like a map.
Yeatman, who also directs, crafts some exquisite moments, and the role-swapping cast (Amelda Brown, Danusia Samal and Hamish MacDougall) are all pretty much flawless. Zac Gvirtzman supplies an insistent electronic score live.

In the tale of a collapsing tower block, Kandinsky find a potent symbol for the fraying fabric of our society. This compelling, compact show is not overtly political, but with the plastic-clad corpse of Grenfell still looming over west London, it really doesn’t need to be.

Still Ill review at New Diorama Theatre, London – ‘fascinating, layered, intelligent’

A compelling and intelligent history of London housing, told through the eyes of one family