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Review of Daughter at The Pleasance Theatre

Dad of Phoebe played by Joe Sowerbutts, Father is Andy Murton, Daughter is Jennifer Greenwood
Dad of Phoebe played by Joe Sowerbutts, Father is Andy Murton, Daughter is Jennifer Greenwood – Photographer is Barney Chadwick

Daughter, billed somewhat contrarily as “a brand new play about fathers“, has been developed from an award-winning short play at this year’s INK Festival, which showcases short scripts for film, radio and stage from writers with an East Anglian connection. Directed by Julia Sowerbutts, Bill Cashmore’s play is a funny and heart-warming portrayal of a father-daughter relationship, but with a twist in the tale…

Two men meet on a park bench during their lunch break. One’s a new dad of just 11 days to baby Phoebe, finding his feet in a strange world of nappies and sleep deprivation. The other is older and a collector of random facts, who seizes the opportunity to impart a few pearls of wisdom. Over the following weeks, the two begin to become friends, meeting regularly at the same spot to chat about fatherhood and babies – but one of them has a secret that might just change everything.

The play soon falls into a rhythm; between each encounter with Phoebe’s Dad (Joe Sowerbutts), the older man – known simply as Dad (Andrew Murton) – returns home to read his papers, chuckle over the ridiculous local headlines and reflect on a significant “flashbulb moment” with his daughter Kitty (Jennifer Greenwood), when she was 9, 16, a uni graduate, a bride-to-be. Over time their relationship takes a recognisable course – from a father enjoying his little girl’s hero worship to battling in the face of her teenage indifference, and finally arriving at the affectionate mutual respect of adults.

Each version of Kitty is played by Jennifer Greenwood, who captures with humour and warmth her character’s changing personality and situation across the years. Joe Sowerbutts exudes the carelessness of youth as Phoebe’s Dad, always on the move and never stopping to fully appreciate anything; as he bins his half-eaten lunch for the fifth time, it’s pretty clear his new friend’s advice about savouring each moment of his daughter’s childhood is going in one ear and out the other. Finally, Andrew Murton shines in a sympathetic portrayal of Dad, an undeniably odd creature of habit obsessed with reading old newspapers, but whose pride and affection for his daughter win us over completely in spite of his quirks.

It seems like a relatively straightforward plot, but Bill Cashmore’s writing is anything but simple; the clues we need to make sense of the story are right there in plain sight, if only we knew where to look. In some ways, the ending is easy to see coming – and yet somehow the play still manages to catch us completely off guard in its closing moments.

Condensed into just 55 minutes, Daughter packs quite a punch. This is a play about family and the importance of appreciating every second we have with the people we love – but it also reflects on the nature of memory and those “flashbulb moments” that stay with us forever, for better or worse. A powerful piece of theatre, both enjoyable and haunting, Daughter is well worth a visit.

4 stars

Review by Liz Dyer

INK spills into London with Daughter by Bill Cashmore (Newsreview, Gimme Five ITV, FLIP BBC, Trips of a Lifetime, Past Lives, What’s in a Name?). This newly developed drama won best new play at The INK Festival 2016. INK, now in its 3rd year, is based in Halesworth, Suffolk and is a springboard for new short stage plays, radio plays and films by writers with an East Anglian connection.

Directed by INK Artistic Director Julia Sowerbutts (Role Play High Tide 2016, Beached, Velvet Trumpet Best New Comedy, Southwark Playhouse), this intriguing and topical new play features a terrific cast and new music from Denis King (Privates on Parade, Ivor Novello Award Winner: Black Beauty TV theme tune).

Daughter is a moving new drama about fatherhood – the ideal and the reality – and about memories, notably the flashbulb ones. Unexpected, poignant and funny, this play explores love and loss. Daughter also sensitively portrays the potency of ‘losing’ children – a topic emotionally discussed recently in Parliament.

Cast featuring;
Andy Murton (Loaded, Harrogate, Shakespeare’s Sister, Theatre Royal Haymarket)
Joe Sowerbutts (Late Shift, Vue Cinemas 2017- World’s 1st interactive feature film, Ghostnets –Best actor MBFT Award)
Jennifer Greenwoood (The Male, Gaz, Arcola Theatre, As You Like It, Stafford Festival)

INK Festival: Daughter
16th Nov 2016 – 19th Nov 2016
StageSpace – Pleasance London
7:45pm, 2:45pm
Tickets available from The Pleasance Theatre on 020 7609 1800
or online www.pleasance.co.uk

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