<strong><em>Daddy Issues (Review)</em></strong>

Daddy Issues (Review)


It was less than a week ago that I was commenting on the rise and rise of the issue led single performer one act play which seems to have dominated the fringe theatre scene recently. Eminently sensible in terms of the current economic situation there’s a danger of overload in this particular field. As if to prove the point the Seven Dials Playhouse’s latest piece falls squarely into the identified genre, even going so far as to have the word “Issues” appearing in the title.

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Debut writer Lewis Cornay’s solo piece Daddy Issues treads a slightly uneasy path between comedy and tragedy but mostly pulls off the balance. The central character is Imogen, though these days she prefers Imi, living in the granny annexe of her family’s beachside home and video blogging about her life on Instagram to a mere handful of followers. Tonight is Halloween, a suitable occasion for the requiem of Roger her recently deceased therapy dog; she’s even dressed up for the occasion as an iteration of the Grim Reaper. Imi papers the walls with the mutt’s pictures and memorial cut outs, drinks her equally deceased grandad’s port and later pops his stash of Xanax. She quickly spirals down from being maudlin into a state of paranoia. Meanwhile as she broadcasts her viewing figures suddenly start to rise – a nice comment on the vulture like qualities of some aspects of modern social media.


The real reason behind this scenario though is Imi’s confusion and mental turmoil over the suicide of her father who drowned in the sea which is constantly audible outside the house and is visible as a screensaver. His disembodied voice pervades her thoughts, at first mildly critical of his daughter’s behaviour but increasingly antagonistic towards her choices. It’s not totally clear whether this bullying persona is what he was really like or it’s the young woman’s breakdown that is making her remember him this way – are/were the “issues” hers or his? Probably the truth lies somewhere in between and like most relationships it’s this complexity that Cornay’s script explores. A further level of resonance is added when another voice adds itself to the mix in the shape of her grandfather – it seems that dad also had “daddy issues”. In truth, the play is a little over stuffed with ideas for a show that is only an hour long and that’s without factoring in all the stuff about Cliff Richard and Meryl Streep! But Cornay’s writing is truthful, entertaining and assured and he has captured the authentic voice of this young woman in torment.


The piece is certainly boosted by a poised and confident performance from Bebe Cave. Truth to tell I found her characterisation rather annoying at first with the needy persona somewhat grating in her desperation to be acknowledged. But Cave successfully negotiates the tightrope of Cornay’s script gradually revealing the damaged and lonely soul beneath. Retaining audience interest for any length of time these days is a feat in itself (just witness Imi’s struggle to retain her online followers) but very good timing and a solid understanding of character and purpose are the hallmarks of this presentation. Andrew Exeter’s design achievements also add to the show’s success. There’s lots of telling little details in the set, the top half of which is inverted suggesting the upside down nature of Imi’s life; the bright pink cheeriness of everything contrasts neatly with the darkness that troubles the young woman.


While I think there’s probably further work to be done on refining and streamlining this play, Cornay and Cave (along with some neat direction from Jane Moriarty) have found an interesting formula with echoes, for me anyway, of Sylvia Plath’s famous poem “Daddy”. I’ve previously encountered Cornay as a musical writer/performer in his lockdown hit Snowflake (with which this piece shares some DNA) so it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Daddy issues is at Seven Dials Playhouse – click here

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