Good Cook. Friendly. Clean was penned by London-based Australian playwright Brooke Robinson and was shortlisted for the 2017 Griffin Award. Directed by Marion Potts, the world premiere production of the piece is currently playing Griffin’s SBW Stables Theatre.
Good Cook. Friendly. Clean focuses its attention on the increasing number of people unable to afford to buy or rent property, who rely on share houses to keep roofs over their heads. But it’s not the younger generation on which Robinson has fixed her gaze. Instead, it’s somewhat older members of the community who also live in share houses and who are at risk; that, given a set of circumstances, can lose control of their lives.
In Robinson’s play, Sandra (Tara Morice), a single woman in her fifties, arrives home one night to news that her housemates of two years (Kelly Paterniti and Fayssak Bazzi) are kicking her out of the apartment. Her housemates need the room for a “really good friend” who is moving to Sydney from Melbourne. Sandra now needs to find a new home into which she can move in less than two weeks.
She begins searching for new lodgings, but soon discovers precisely how difficult a task that is in the current climate. She attends interview after interview, desperately trying to sell her credentials to prospective landlords but faces hurdles on each occasion (including tenants’ own prejudices about renting a room to a person in their fifties). The clock continues to tick, and as Sandra’s current housemates’ hard deadline approaches, the search becomes increasingly frantic.
Good Cook. Friendly. Clean is an alarming reality check about the tenuous existence of share house residents. Robinson demonstrates with frightening clarity how easy it is for anyone to have the rug swept from beneath them in an instant and to find themselves homeless on the unconcerned streets of Sydney (or any city). Public discussions around rising property prices don’t tend to give substantial (if any) thought to the plight created for older and vulnerable persons – and it’s a terrifying predicament they face.
As the impacted person in this story, Morice is wonderful. Not given any real back story beyond her struggle with an illness, she presents as more benevolent and genial person than the self-absorbed, pretentious and blinkered individuals she encounters throughout. If anyone can engage our minds in this issue, it’s Morice’s character. Paterniti and Fayssak morph into each of her prospective landlords – including an upwardly mobile couple and two spoilt revelling twenty-somethings – and impress with their versatility and good comedic timing.
The piece clocks in at approximately 75 minutes, and Potts ensures the pace moves quickly and orchestrates the change of tone from frivolous to sombre at the appropriate moment in the script, making sure there are glimpses of Sandra’s escalating angst prior to that time. Scene changes are well choreographed moments and nicely underscored by Nate Edmondson.
Good Cook. Friendly. Clean is highly engaging while disturbing, principally because it rings so true to life with the precariousness of home. Neighbourhood and community are two entirely distinct concepts, and Robinson’s text highlights the crucial need for a sense of the latter to persist in the former.
GOOD COOK. FRIENDLY. CLEAN – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: Griffin Theatre Company, SBW Stables Theatre (10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross)
Dates: Playing now until 16 June, 2018
Times: Monday – Friday 7pm*, Saturday, 2pm & 7pm, Wednesday 6 June 2pm & 7pm
* Except Monday 11 June
Pricing: Adult $60; Concession, Senior, Preview, Groups 8+ $50; Under 35; $38