Teatro Vivo’s production of The House That Slipped is so fresh that it is oven hot. Yes, baking metaphors apply for many reasons, not least because this is my first theatre review since lockdown and like many people, I have been filling my time and my stomach with baked goods.
A baking analogy is also apt due to the plot of this play being set during the current Coronavirus pandemic when the house, 12 Laburnum Drive, its contents, including its humans, are transported from March 2020 to 2070. The occupants of the house are communicating with us from 2070 via Zoom, as it appears that they want to return to their 2020 lives. We learn about life in 2070 Britain, the customs, the buildings, the technology, the food and the values. It is a wonderful Utopia based on what people need rather than on profit. It is similar to a socialist ideal, with an emphasis on learning and leisure, it is a society which is socially, economically and environmentally beneficial for the planet and people, with a good quality of life for all.
Now if you think that The House That Slipped is simply a well-meaning, worthy play, you would be wrong. The script, direction and the way Zoom is an essential part of the story, make it witty and intelligent. The play is genuinely laugh out loud funny. This is all made possible due to the brilliant cast’s naturalistic performances of well-drawn and believable characters, created from the excellent script.
The play works extremely well as an immersive experience, as the characters involve us by directly speaking to us as a group and individually, riffing from the questionnaires we were asked to fill out prior to the performance. The actors’ seem to effortlessly improvise, when we talk in our Zoom break out rooms. House That Slipped is oh so hopeful. I would love to live in 2070, if the glimpses we had from the occupants, the robot and the cyborg were true.
Some ideas, whilst not entirely original, are fun such as singing bushes and an iceberg lettuce tasting like raspberry cheesecake, which no doubt encourages healthy eating in 2070. During “The House That Slipped” we also learn that all food is created from fungi, there are vertical farms, people live in air pods which move with you and travel is via a zipwire, which is rather more experimental than one of the characters anticipated, when she bought a book on adventure travel in 2020. These are glimpses into what a future could be. How wonderful. And it is a bright, joyful, caring and loving future. However we are warned that getting there was painful for the generations before, particularly between 2021 and 2025 when the world experienced severe extremes of weather, climate and wealth, leading to severe frosts and drought, civil unrest, wars and mass migrations in all parts of the world.
I really enjoyed “House That Slipped,” not just because it’s so funny, clever and hopeful, it’s really entertaining. Time slipped by quickly for me during the performance, which I didn’t expect for a play performed entirely on Zoom. The cast had my attention all the way through. Make sure you see this poignant, hilarious, smart and wishful play. I think it will stay hot out of the oven for a long time.
Teatro Vivo’s production of “The House That Slipped”is online from 3 to 7 August 2020 with a socially distanced finale on 8 August 2020. www.teatrovivo.co.uk