Whitney Fortmueller and Jules Werner in Anne Simon’s take on Martin Crimp’s “Dealing with Clair” at the Capucins.
Anne Simon’s production of “Dealing with Clair”, though perhaps less accessible than previous outings at the Capucins, bears all the traits of her trademark innovative stagings.
The current production at the Capucins of Martin Crimp’s “Dealing with Clair” opens with the spotlight on the rear of the stage, revealing a secretive eavesdropping post and a man listening in on strangers’ conversations. The lighting of this isolated wiry headphone-wearing spy (played with precise physicality by Matthew Brown) recalls nothing more than the late Ulrich Mühe in “The Lives of Others”. This is not the GDR, but rather suburban London. The nameless man is not spying on potential enemies of the state, but on a middle-class couple and their discreet but aspirational estate agent whose morality inexorably takes a nosedive just as the price of their property soars.
Liz and Mike (a superbly confident Elisabet Johannesdottir and a rather suitably awkward Raoul Schlechter) are eager to sell the house. When estate agent Clair (a captivating Whitney Fortmueller) suggests they could ditch their prospective buyer for another who can offer them cash, they are all ears. Their conversations are full of clever subtext and subtle suggestion as they try to avoid stating the obvious, especially in front of Italian au pair Anna (a wonderfully coquettish Hana Sofia Lopes).
But when puffed-up, in all senses of the word, art dealer James (a brilliantly charismatic Jules Werner) enters the scene, the language becomes more brash, arrogant even. James is the cash buyer and he takes a shine to Clair, with devastating consequences. His pompous sense of entitlement and his disdain for any opinion other than his own is reminiscent, whether intentional or not, of the current leader of the Conservative party in the UK.
Clio Van Aerde’s set--a split-level house, the secretive chamber and even a doll’s house--is stunning and works effectively throughout. Though a scene change involving the planting of trees and extras walking through the audience with flashlights is appropriately disturbing, it is also too long an interval.
The costumes, also by Van Aerde, are very striking and reveal a lot about each character, from James’ checked jacket and black turtle neck to Clair’s sensible trouser suit and flat shoes. But it works especially well with a Chinese brocade jacket that Liz wears late in the play, which lends her additional harshness as she channels Lady Macbeth and compares neatly to the men’s lascivious talk of a Japanese kimono.
This is not the most accessible work Simon has put on at the Capucins. It does not have the snappy dialogue of “All New People” or the satisfying post-modern cleverness of “Stupid Fucking Bird”.
Indeed, at times “Dealing with Clair” is hard work, as Crimp’s real skill lies in the precise nature of his dialogue to reveal the workings of the characters and the development of the plot. But it is work that pays off with a stunning finale that leaves the audience shocked and maybe questioning their own morality.
“Dealing with Clair” is on at the Théâtre des Capucins on 3, 4 and 7 December at 8 p.m. Info and tickets here.