BWW REVIEW: GOOD COOK.FRIENDLY.CLEAN. Highlights The Ridiculousness Of Big City Rental Markets And A Reminder To Be Compassionate
Wednesday 9th May 7pm, SBW Stables Kings Cross
Brooke Robinson's new Australian play GOOD COOK.FRIENDLY.CLEAN. hits close to home for those where the security of home can be tenuous in expensive rental markets. Under Marion Potts' direction, this work, which was a finalist for the 2017 Griffin Award, gives an insight into human behaviour as it reminds us to have compassion regardless of age, gender and circumstance.
GOOD COOK.FRIENDLY.CLEAN centres on the 58 year old Sandra (Tara Morice), a single woman with a passion for cooking. When her housemates (Kelly Paterniti and Fayssal Bazzi), a young hipster couple, break the news that that she needs to find somewhere else to live fast because they need her room for a friend, she starts the daunting task of trying to convince the succession of potential flatmates that they should pick her to be their new housemate. Whilst most people in Sydney are aware of how tight the property market is, some may not realise that for sharehouses it is standard for prospective tenants to be subjected to interviews with the existing flatmates. The market is dominated with young people in their 20's and 30's who all seem to want a flatmate that is 'laid back', not in their 50's with a obvious medical history. Whilst the criteria seems elusive, the thing that seems to be common is that the series of interviewers, presented by Paterniti and Bazzi, will do anything to try to put Sandra off pursuing their property whilst avoiding outright discrimination on age or the fact that she is clearly a cancer survivor.
Designer Melanie Liertz has created a partly renovated residential space with patched walls, exposed pipes and minimal furniture to represent the series of apartments and houses that Sandra hopes will become home. Costuming, whilst simple, is layered to allow items to be removed or swapped so Paterniti and Bazzi can transform into the range of unnamed characters that prove roadblocks in Sandra's search for accommodation. Alexander Berlage's lighting helps transition between the various properties, dropping to complete darkness or holding the stage in part light as scenes are changed and filling the space with different intensities of light as would be the case of different homes.
Of the interviewers, the female character is more vocal throughout with Paterniti adopting a range of vocal stylings to differentiate between the characters, delivering preppy hipster, high school educated and a range of accents. She captures the callousness of the characters that clearly don't want to accept Sandra's application, cloaking the performance in a false sincerity and deviousness to ensure that the young womans' insensitivity is apparent without being overplayed. The male roles that Bazzi fills are generally not as prominent as the female roles but he ensures that one prospective flatmate's 5 year old son is presented with an honest physicality and the adult roles are generally seen as callous and uncaring.
Tara Morice is captivating as Sandra. She ensures that the audience sees the prejudice that the older woman experiences from younger people that most likely espouse messages of tolerance and acceptance but fail to afford her the same respect. She ensures that it is clear that she knows she needs to maintain a cheery disposition and continue to be seen as easy going as evidenced when she arrives home and tries to brush off the news from her flatmates but the cracks in the façade start to show as she receives rejection after rejection. Her facial expressions, particularly in the dimmed lighting between scenes, prove the first insight into her crumbling resolve and the look of shock at the situations she is faced with are priceless.
Whilst GOOD COOK.FRIENDLY.CLEAN will resonate loudly with anyone who has tried to find accommodation in a big city, this is an important wake up call to all Australians. It reminds us to see past age and illness and any other prejudice and see people as humans that need care and the basic human rights and that we as a society need to work towards affordable, safe accommodation options for people, particularly those that may not be able to renting or buying on their own.
4 May - 16 June 2018