Review - Trap Street (New Diorama Theatre)

Beginning its tale in the 1960s, theatre company Kandinsky's Trap Street tells the story of one of the first families to move into a new flat on a fictional London estate named after Jane Austen. Frazzled matriarch Valerie, who dotes on her eldest son and constantly chastised her younger daughter, takes it upon herself to start building a community, and as the play jumps between past and present the lives of Valerie and her children are imprinted onto the building. Cut to the present day and Valerie's daughter Andrea returns to England after a long stay in Spain, keen to settle back into the flat where she grew up. The only problem is that the once bustling community of the Austen Estate is now gone, and has been replaced by an eerie emptiness, as property guardians dutifully inhabit the block until it is developed into luxury apartments. 

The cast of Trap Street
Photo credit - Richard Davenport
With a running time of just 80 minutes, Trap Street should feel sprightly, especially as it is comprised of a bunch of short scenes which continuously switch from the 1960s to present day and back again. It should cast sympathy on main character Andrea, the put upon youngest child of a pushy mother who's desperation to escape her family home is, over time, replaced with a need to preserve it. However, despite an interesting host of characters, unquestionably strong performances and a continually apt subject matter, Trap Street lacks focus and fails to make any fresh points or suggest any possible solutions to the societal issues it highlights. 

It also feels unnecessarily long, and spends a lot of time showing the audience how unlikable both Andrea and her mother are in their individual timelines. In one scene Amanda visits a swanky modern real estate agent, and is duped into trying out a virtual tour of one of the £700,000 flats which will replace her old home. She stumbles around the office wearing a VR headset whilst hipster estate agents look on bemusedly. Zac Gvirtzman's slow and nostalgic live score twinkles sadly, telling the audience to feel sorry for the woman. But it's very hard to do so. Ballooning London living costs are a fact of life nowadays, and it's hard to feel anything other than apathy towards that fact. 

Of course, the overarching message of the piece is clear from the beginning; pricing working class families out of the homes they grew up in is frankly terrible, and gentrification certainly fosters a very different neighbourhood, very unlike the tight knit communities which are so fondly reminisced about. But Trap Street says very little else about the current housing crisis, and so whilst Kandinsky's stimulus is compelling, the finished play feels underpowered, with many avenues left unexplored.