Imogen (a brilliant Bebe Cave) is stuck in the past in a granny annexe by the sea. As she puts up images of her dog, Roger, for his Instagram Live wake, we as audience file in and take our seats.
Billed as a “devilishly dark comedy”, Daddy Issues is written by Lewis Cornay and directed by Jane Moriarty. It is an ambitious piece brought to life by Andrew Exeter’s set and lighting, and Christopher Reid’s sound design.
Imogen moves from happy selfies and Halloween bounce as the stream progresses. The moments of light relief around trick or treating children and an obsession with Cliff Richard become very dark, very quickly.
I appreciate Daddy Issues wants to focus on issues around grief and suicide, and does so in a startling and otiginal way.
At first we are engaged with the remembrance of the puppy, whose ashes sit forlornly, adorned by a dog collar. But there is a lot more going on.
Daddy took his own life by drowning, which makes the rolling waves we see on the aging monitor and hear crashing against the walls more sinister.
When this happened is unclear – Imogen lets us know she was sexually active, so not a child – but his daughter is still grieving, on that split between hate and love. Before a camera, do we ever show our real selves?
Set in a deeply detailed set washed in orange and red, Daddy Issues has a lot to occupy you visually, although from some seats the activity at ground level is missed, and I was unclear how crucial to the production this was.
Cave is a gifted performer who wrenches out the heart of this character, from her chatty ennui and storytelling, to her slow and difficult breakdown under the gaze of increasing followers.
There is much to unpick in this one-act piece, and it may be hard to watch for those who have lost people to suicide or who have lost a parent. That may be the mark of an effective play, but be forewarned.
The following morning I find myself constantly reassessing my reaction to Daddy Issues. I conclude it isn’t for me because I found it more upsetting than funny, but that’s a personal reaction.
It is a play which definitely adds to the conversation about mental health and what our parents pass on to us, but it didn’t quite get there in my opinion, leaving more questions than answers. Do go and make up your own mind.
You can see Daddy Issues until 19 November at Seven Dials Playhouse: book your tickets here.
Image credit: Helen Murray