The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories)

Francesca Millican-Slater is a delight. From start to finish, we are swept up by her charisma, as though caught up in a love story with her, as she recounts her relationship with her Birmingham flat. It is funny, interesting, and occasionally poignant, but despite all this doesn’t quite have enough substance to make this a stellar performance.

​Francesca Millican-Slater is a delight.

When she made the decision to move from London to Birmingham, Francesca found herself living by herself for the first time in her life, and as such found herself become very attached to her slightly dodgy, slightly odd and slightly dysfunctional flat. She lovingly remembers all the quirks (like the ramp into her bedroom, or the windows that didn’t open), whilst also providing us a social history of the house and its local area. The history that is revealed is rich, with generations of grocers, a TV rental empire and a home for ‘feeble-minded women’. These glimpses are fleeting, and sometimes I felt they could have been fleshed out more. However, the insight that we’re given into this otherwise very average-looking street shows us how much history there is to be found all around us, and how much there is to appreciate in the most average or decrepit of places.

The story of Francesca’s love affair with her flat is for the most part quite cute, and comes with (one too many) sing-alongs detailing each stage of the relationship, as well as a most-welcome cheese-and-wine interlude, in line with the cheese-and-wine nights she would hold by herself with her flat. It’s a familiar look at single living that could have had depressing echoes of a Bridget Jones-esque quality, but instead is positive, even when the affair comes to an end. I found myself feel genuinely choked up seeing photos of the flat being refurbished by her landlord – such is the power of Francesca’s emotive storytelling. However, despite her exuberant narrative and beaming face, it lacked linguistic flair or rhythmic interest – and for a piece so reliant on spoken word and description, this could make certain passages drag out quite a lot.

Despite this, it’s hard not to enjoy this, with genuine laughs throughout and engaging audience interaction. As she says herself, we may have parted ways, but the memory of the flat will still remain with us, and we feel better for it. 

Reviews by Carys Evans

The Battersea Barge

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Camden People's Theatre

The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories)

★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Like Daphne du Maurier’s obsessive attachment to Menabily, the house on which Manderly is based in Rebecca, Francesca Millican-Slater’s eulogistic work focuses on her suburban flat, which used to be the offices of a TV rental company. The developers are moving in soon to erect something shiny, and the flat, its contents, community and the stories that will never make it to the history books will soon be lost. What fingerprints linger on the door handles? What skin cells lie dormant on the carpet? And what haunts the plumbing?

This is a story about loss, change, time, technology and the memories of a place that make it home: how a row of shops offers a microcosm of a community that could be in any suburb, in any city, but somehow isn’t. By a close examination of this one row of shops, Francesca considers our changing high streets, old haunts and stores shut down because convenience is no longer local. She gently questions her own and our desire for nostalgia and the need to celebrate things that no longer exist.

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