‘Exceptional Promise’ review – London’s housing crisis gets the gameshow treatment

Comedy quiz Exceptional Promise is a fun and engaging look at the frustrations of house hunters in the capital – ★★★★

Who knew a gameshow about housing could be so entertaining? Billed as “a show which asks: do you belong”, Project 2036‘s Exceptional Promise is a cynical exploration of visa applications and home ownership which certainly lives up to its name.

More an hour of mostly improvised comedy than 60 minutes of acting, the three contestants – Salome Wagaine, Bisola Elizabeth Alabi and Emily Aboud – compete as themselves to win their dream home. The host, meanwhile, changes every night. On this occasion, presenter and ‘2017 Come Dine With Me champion’ Brian Lobel (BALL) stumbles as he reads out the script on his cue cards, his excitement infectious and humorous.

With Lobel behind the wheel, Exceptional Promise is a play on the serious issue of affordable housing which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Whether such a tone continues for the remainder of the show’s run, and a different contestant gets to the final round, remains to be seen.

For a show so flamboyant, the play’s strengths lie in its subtleties. The set-up is as daft as the nonsensical housing policies the gameshow satirises. When the process for buying a house in London is so laughable, the comedy comes naturally.

When several buyers rush to find their ideal home in dense urban cities, the gamification of house buying is unavoidable – an idea Exceptional Promise explores with hilarious hyperbole. General knowledge rounds include an interactive ‘Guess Whofeaturing celebrities such as Amy (Winehouse, obvs, Lobel writes), RuPaul (Charles, obvs) and Melania (Trump, obvs). Questions on British culture are borrowed from the Life in Britain visa exam. In a ‘House of Horrors’ round, participants describe disgusting households they’ve lived in in the past, featuring slugs in the bathroom and flies having sex in the kitchen.

On the surface, Exceptional Promise may look like just another gameshow, but its underlying commentary on affordable housing leaves us wondering if anyone is really a winner.

Exceptional Promise is now playing at the Bush Theatre until 22 June.

Production Images: Poppy Templeton.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch Exceptional Promise for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.

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