Jermyn Street Theatre Autumn 2023
Caryl Churchillís satirical 1972 play Owners depicts the destructive greed of property investors. It is also a world where men have little sense of purpose in contrast to women who take a lead in shaping the direction of events, though the direction they take us may not be entirely healthy.
The show opens with the disruption of the old world. The rough-talking butcher Clegg (Mark Huckett) is closing his shop as a result of a supermarket opening next door. It is another blow to his dream of having a shop and a son.
He chats about killing his wife Marion to Worsely (Tom Morley) who works for Marion and seems to have little sense of purpose beyond killing himself. He mentions he has tried to kill himself six times and in the course of the play will make more attempts.
Marion (Laura Doddington) is very successful at the property game and arrives to announce she has just made a profit of £100,000 on the latest house she sold. Clegg has very mixed feelings about her success, feeling heís the man and should be the success.
Things get slightly more complicated for the Marion trio when her next project involves grabbing a house in which former friends Alec and Lisa are renting the room in which they live with their two children and Alecís aged mother.
Although it's overcrowded, it is all they have and Lisa (Boadicea Ricketts) being pregnant is not keen on a move even when they are offered money to clear out.
Alec (Ryan Donaldson) isn't so bothered about whether they move or not. In fact, Alec does a good imitation of a human blob that flows with the wind. Since Marion still fancies him, then why not have a fling with her, even if he isnít really that interested.
Churchill keeps her sights focused on the cruelty of the property market and the peculiar way the male personality was becoming aimless while the female character took us off to dangerous territory.
Its themes speak directly to our current situation with property speculators dancing on massive gains while the population suffers an increasing housing problem, and female Home Secretaries compete with each other to voice the most outrageous prejudices.
Yet, although a very fine cast of actors gives a realistic performance, the depiction of characters and events is often reminiscent of the cynical absurdism of plays by Joe Orton.
Owners has too light an edge to engage us fully, either in the politics or the characters. It is difficult to believe in any of the relationships and the plot is a bit broad brush stroke.
However, it is always watchable, if just to see an early shaping of ideas that would later emerge brilliantly in plays such as Cloud Nine and Top Girls.
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Review - Owners - Jermyn Street Theatre 2023