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The Forensics of a Flat - Play Review

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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Humour and sadness all under one roof
Francesca Millican-Slater's last show, Me, Myself and Miss Gibbs, was a journey of discovery into the past after the purchase of a somewhat intriguing postcard.

While, in that production, Francesca was looking for the elusive Miss Gibbs, in The Forensics of a Flat she turns the spotlight more firmly on herself.

Moving to Birmingham and looking for somewhere to live, she came upon a time warp from the past – a flat still living in the 1970s – and decided to rent it.

And this forms the basis of the monologue at Birmingham Rep's Studio, which takes the audience through Francesca's own experiences of living in the flat peppered with its history and interrelated anecdotes.

The flat, which Francesca refers to as 'she', takes on a character all of its own with its wooden panelling, dodgy plumbing and sliding ramp into the bedroom.

There is also the somewhat entrepreneurial but benevolent owner of the flat, 'Landlord', and his 'Boys' who patch it up around her, play karaoke in the flat beneath, and are determined to modernise her home.

The whole performance is winsome and fun with asides into the history of karaoke, the two-for-one offers at the wine shop in her block and her delight at finding a place which she could call home.

There are breakouts into song and dance routines, a slide show, a chance for the audience to have a go at karaoke and even a somewhat chaotic break for cheese and wine (I have to point out here that our row got the cheese but not the wine!)

But alongside the laughter there is also a sense of nostalgia and the weight of history. Hours of research into both her flat and the local area turn up their own stories – such as the women who ran a fruit shop during World War Two while their men were fighting, the cinema which saw crowds at its opening but which one day turned into a bingo hall, and the manor house down the road which was a home for 'feeble-minded women' who, Francesca sadly tells us, were all too often simply women who had children out of wedlock.

Francesca is an engaging story-teller, able to turn what could be the dullest story into drama and involving the audience in the narrative as much as possible.

At 90 minutes, The Forensics of a Flat is a little over-long, a bit of trimming and maybe cutting back a couple of the songs (do we really need an entire Michael Bublé song to get the message?) would make this show leaner and much stronger.

That said, it is refreshing to see something so different brought before local audiences. Millican-Slater is certainly a talent worth fostering – let's hope she finds inspiration for more shows like this in the world around her.
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Why? It's history in the making
Phone: 0121 236 4455
Where: Birmingham Rep's Studio
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