Metal Rabbit & Supporting Wall in association with Soho Theatre
There is an approach to the housing crises which involves clearing away social housing and replacing it with high-priced luxury dwellings. Previous residents will have been displaced never to return, perhaps becoming homeless, but the housing market will have made considerable sums of money for some people and at least on paper the area will have been regenerated.
Such absurdities make Philip Ridley’s satire Radiant Vermin a slightly disturbing if often amusing commentary on public policy in housing.
The play opens with the young couple Jill (Scarlett Alice Johnson) and Ollie (Sean Michael Verey) stepping forward onto a blank white stage. They gently explain what they have done to reach this point in their lives. They seem confident that we will understand and even have done the same.
Living on the notorious Red Ocean Estate with few resources to move anywhere else, they are excited and tempted by an offer of a dream home from the mysterious Ms Dee (Debra Baker) whom they assume to be a government official. Dee tells them that the scheme involves them making their new home sparkle in a way that attracts other homes to the area. They are puzzled about how they will achieve that but move anyway.
One night in their new home, which is lttle more than a shell waiting to be decorated, Ollie accidentally kills a homeless person who probably wandered into their kitchen for food. The dead body briefly sparkles and then disappears. In its place, the room is magnificently fitted and redecorated.
Soon, they refer to the homeless people they lure back to their home as renovators. Each room they die in is transformed. The improvements to the house do encourage others to move nearby. Property prices rise and no one misses the homeless.
There are moments when they worry slightly about what they are doing and one homeless person (Debra Baker) gets to speak and almost engage the sympathy of our upwardly mobile couple.
Occasionally the audience is asked if they would do the same, but the real target of this bleakly funny show is not so much individuals trying to get a home but the policy priorities of the powerful who place making money above social need.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna