Two couples brought together by a common goal: to buy their own home. This is the opening predicament these old university friends find themselves in Matt Hartley’s Deposit, signing a scruffy, handwritten contract and clinking champagne glasses, with high expectations of compromise and laughter as they attempt to scrape together what they can in a year to put towards a deposit. This is Hearne Hill. It is 2017. It already feels impossible.
Ben and Rachel, a lowly civil servant and a teacher, are the official renters of this shabby one-bed flat, with Melanie and Sam (a graphic designer and a doctor) camping out in their lounge. Tensions are already visible at the start, with Melanie’s loud, interfering nature and Sam’s sizable salary creeping in as potential problems. This is a competitive game: which couple can save the most? Spend the least? Have sex the most quietly? Who can get away with not buying any toilet roll for a year?
Deposit offers plenty of opportunity for humour as these 30-somethings revert to student-like squabbles and petty problems, sniping and griping and ignoring the bigger issues evidently blighting their relationships. The play also tackles the central themes head-on; this isn’t just a play about personal trifles, but about the right to feel at home, to fight tooth and nail to live in the most expensive city in the UK. ‘Why should we have to leave?’ Rachel asks, rightly questioning who would teach her unruly inner-city classroom if all teachers upped and left like her, tired of scrimping by on their meagre salary. The right to settle in London – with its exciting streets, and ‘history on every corner’ – evokes an entitlement and nostalgia that jars somewhat with the actual existence and living conditions of the four, who can barely afford to enjoy a now seemingly hostile city.
For these ‘friends’, dressed in block colours like giant pieces of a board game, are merely pawns in London’s renting system. It’s an infuriating and hopeless predicament, which requires immediate action (or the death of a near relative, for inheritance appears to be the only way out of this eternal renting cycle). This play, despite all its humour, is politically on-point, revealing the housing crisis and astronomical hike in property prices via a tale rooted in reality. The theme is accentuated by the set, which has jars of pennies everywhere, and pennies embedded within the glass floor, both of which serve to highlight the futility of the dream to own property in London. Moreover, the direction and movement in the play are fabulous – it really gives a sense of how tiny this flat is, even within the intimate space downstairs at the Hampstead – as they topple and tumble over one another.
Deposit gives food for thought, certainly, but provides little in the way of solutions. Perhaps there is no solution for ordinary people trapped in this endless, miserable cycle of renting and saving. But then, Deposit also highlights what is truly important in life – home. And surely home is something that we construct with the people we love, wherever that might be. At least, that’s the feeling I came away with, as I headed home to my (rented) flat.
Review by Amy Stow
A HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS ORIGINAL
BY MATT HARTLEY
DIRECTED BY LISA SPIRLING
Running time: 1 hour and 35 minutes with no interval
Rachel and Ben want to buy a flat in London. And so do their friends, Melanie and Sam. But what with rent, tax, student loans and bills, it’s impossible to save for a deposit.
So the foursome comes up with a fast-track solution to the problem: live together. Sneakily split the rent and bills on a tiny one bedroom flat for a year. But with paper thin walls and space growing sparser by the day, which will they sacrifice first – the friendship, the relationship or the dream of buying their own property?
11 MAY – 10 JUN 2017