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Theatre review Heart rules the head in resistance to the housing crisis

Booby's Bay
Finborough Theatre, London

CONSIDERING how desperate the housing crisis across Britain has become, it's a surprise how little theatre has responded.

Even so, over the last three years there has been a sporadic spate of new plays that have attempted to put housing issues at the top of the debate ladder.

Shows such as Lung Theatre's E15, centred on the inspiring Focus E15 campaign in Newham, and Matt Hartley's Deposit have begun to unlock the door but have one constant, detrimental factor in common, their London focus.

Thus Henry Darke's debut play at the Finborough shines light on Cornwall, a different yet no less affected region of the country.

Over the past two decades the area has been transformed by a rapid increase in holiday homes and buy-to-let property and, a few days ago, the Daily Mail reported that rentals for holiday cottages there have jumped by 30 per cent this January compared with a year ago. As Darke himself puts it, “Cornwall is plundered for its natural beauty, but the lives of normal Cornish people are completely ignored.”

Enter Huck Trebillcock, protagonist of Booby's Bay, played by a defiantly sprightly Oliver Bennett, who aims to spark a “ripple of protest” against the overwhelming tide of nonchalant hyper-investment that has pushed young people like himself to the periphery of their own communities.

Undoubtedly, there are many people out there just like Trebillcock, but the plot of Booby's Bay, hinged as it is on the most basic of love triangles, fails to do them real justice.

Having impregnated his young flame Jeanie (the alluring Florence Roberts) and haunted by the ghost of his brother, he barricades himself into one of the many empty holiday homes in the bay in act of retreat as much as rebellion.

His campaign feels all too isolated in a community in which he has supposedly grown up and results in all too predictable tragedy.

As news of his downfall hits the headlines, the sense of united community action that could truly turn the tide against such a deep-rooted crisis begins to form.

But, ultimately, it feels far too hollow.

Runs until February 24, box office: finboroughtheatre.co.uk

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