by Melanie Spencer.
Hampstead Theatre (Hampstead Downstairs) Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 20 July 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 June.
Well-considered depiction of this long disease their lives.
Life’s tough on Daisy, as she approaches her 16th birthday. Her mother died three years ago, and she’s been diagnosed with a serious disease which requires chemotherapy. Unsurprisingly, it’s a shock to her mental, as well as physical, system. Her father Peter, already had his constant need to seek business projects disrupted when his wife fell fatally ill, spending all his financial resources on looking-after her. “I love you” are words he says once to Daisy, in the dark as the interval arrives.
Daisy lashes out at the father who can’t supply the attention or emotional generosity she needs; Peter’s annoyed into brusqueness as Daisy constant denigrates him. Then, in a scene that’s pivotal, if the most functional in its writing, he learns that Daisy’s teacher wants her to make up for lost weeks by repeating the school year. It tips him into callous coldness to his daughter.
Apart from the briefly-seen teacher, every character has their problems, including the nurse Bola. With an unusual introductory line (“I took your daughter’s urine sample”) Bola goes on to describe a difficult visit from her mother-in-law. In a play where life throws up the unexpected, it seems apt she mistakes Alice’s aunt for her mother. Diane has to voyage from her long-term mental seclusion to help Alice to London hospital appointments – the play, without being determinedly regional, remembers not everyone lives in London.
If casting’s half the job of directing, then Melanie Spencer’s production of her own play was half way there on day one. Daisy’s deepening distress, hidden yet expressed by the animal-costume she wears in her largely housebound life, is made clear by Alice Sykes, as is her natural teenage mix of energy and truculence, while Candassaie Liburd brings a smiling facility to the school friend who’s clearly not in Daisy’s intellectual league. Andy Frame expresses Peter’s attempted reasoning and emotional inadequacy. And Tricia Kelly beautifully charts Diane’s efforts to overcome her fears of involvement, face strained with anxiety, light hand-gestures indicating emotional awakening as she first talks to a stranger then reaches an unexpected sympathy with the teenager.
Daisy: Alice Sykes.
Peter: Andy Frame.
Alice: Candassaie Liburd.
Diane: Tricia Kelly.
Bola: Yetunde Oduwole.
Miss Lewis: Danielle Bux.
Director: Melanie Spencer.
Designer: Emma Tompkins.
Lighting: Katherine Graham.
Sound: Tom Hackley.