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The Play About My Dad at Jermyn Street Theatre | Review

The Play About My Dad - Jermyn Street Theatre - Hannah Britland (Boo Killebrew), David Schaal (Larry Killebrew) - photo Harry Livingstone
The Play About My Dad – Jermyn Street Theatre – Hannah Britland (Boo Killebrew), David Schaal (Larry Killebrew) – photo Harry Livingstone

In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas, leaving at least 1,245 people dead and causing property damage estimated at $125 billion. Its scale was unprecedented and trying to imagine what it was like living through Katrina is almost overwhelming. However, playwright Boo Killebrew has found a way to bring the human elements of Katrina into focus with her show The Play About My Dad which is having its European premiere at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Written as a play within a play, The Play About my Dad is set around a play that Boo Killebrew (Hannah Britland) is writing about her father Larry (David Schaal) a doctor in Long Beach Mississippi who was living in Pass Christian until Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home. Larry is playing himself in Boo’s play and is not a natural actor. Nor does he fully understand theatrical terminology or methodology but he is willing to go along with Boo’s story and give acting a go. Within the play, there are various other stories – people Larry knows who were affected by the hurricane. These include Kenny Tyson (Ammar Duffus) and Neil Plitt (Nathan Welsh), two emergency medical technicians sitting in an ambulance on their shift waiting for something to happen. Then there is a young family – Rena (Annabel Bates), Jay (Joel Lawes) and their eight-year-old son Michael (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah/Taye Junaid-Evans) who have decided to stay put and not try to escape the storm heading their way. And then there is the venerable Essie Watson (Miquel Brown) All of these people are affected by the worst hurricane (so far) of the twenty-first century. And at their heart, there is Larry and his daughter Boo, bringing the tales to life, working as father and daughter to ensure the stories never disappear.

The Play About My Dad is an unusual one to review. In many ways, it doesn’t follow standard theatrical rules. We have the lead character of Larry, playing himself but as a non-actor who argues with his daughter, also playing herself and writing the play as we go through. I found it a bit confusing as since both characters address the audience directly at times, I wasn’t too sure where, in the overall production process, we were meant to be. The other issue I found was the occasionally repetitive nature of the conversations between father and daughter about the play which, to my mind, slowed things down, particularly as I wanted to return to the various stories going on. Of these, I loved the two EMTs who had a wonderful style of banter that comes from two people who have worked together closely for years. I also absolutely adored Ms Essie, a wonderfully drawn character played with absolute authenticity by Miquel Brown. Without giving anything away, Ms Essie actually moved me to tears with her story.

Playwright Boo has been very specific in her description of the set and Designer Charlotte Espiner has realised that description beautifully with her rather stark set of pallets and newly prepared sheets of plywood. Ali Hunter’s lighting, including some very effective, strategically placed, blue lights along with Elena Pena’s sound – which was not at all what I expected – all add to the atmosphere that Director Stella Powell-Jones creates in the intimate space.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed with The Play About My Dad. Whilst the idea was good and the acting on the whole really good, I found the interactions between Boo and Larry rather distracting. Being engrossed in the ‘side stories’ I wanted more of them and less discussion about theatrical technique. However having said that, the play is well put on and gives the audience a real insight into some of the individual human stories that make up the narrative of Katrina and her devastating journey across the southern United States.

3 Star Review

Review by Terry Eastham

“Dad. Could you start? But, you know, like it’s you, just talking?”
It’s not easy putting on a play. It’s even harder when your dad is the lead character, he’s playing himself, and even though you’re the professional playwright and he’s the emergency surgeon, he keeps trying to rewrite your script. After Hurricane Katrina swept through her home town, Boo was determined to write a play about it. But she never imagined it would be this hard…

Playful, funny, and fiercely emotional, Killebrew’s acclaimed play explores what it means to be a father – or a daughter. Directed by Stella Powell-Jones, Deputy Director of Jermyn Street Theatre.

Boo Killebrew – Hannah Britland
Boo’s dad, Larry, – David Schaal,
Juliet Cowan – Sallye Killebrew
Ammar Duffus – Kenny Tyson
Miquel Brown – Essie Watson
Nathan Welsh – Neil Plitt
Miquel Brown – Essie Watson
Annabel Bates – Rena Thomas)
Joel Lawes (Jay Thomas)
T’Jai Adu-Yeboah and Taye Junaid-Evans – Michael Thomas

Director Stella Powell-Jones
Designer Charlotte Espiner
Lighting Designer Ali Hunter
Costume Supervisor Carolina Jobb
Sound Designer Elena Peña
Dialect Coach Nick Trumble
Casting Director Emily Jones

Jermyn Street Theatre
By Boo Killebrew
Wed, 27th June – Sat, 21st July


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