Daddy Issues review – morbid monologue labours under its weighty themes
Daddy Issues sets itself a tall order: to turn the topics of parental depression and death into a comedy drama. It does not manage to pull off that tricky feat and ends up wavering between the sad, unsavoury and excruciating.
Even accounting for the fact that Lewis Cornay is a new writer, this hour-long production feels premature in its staging. A monologue by a daughter, Imi (Bebe Cave), about her dead father, its tepid comedy gets in the way of the drama so that we end up – criminally – feeling nothing for this grieving young character.
It is Halloween night and Imi is at home alone, drinking port and posting live feeds on Instagram, ostensibly about the death of her dog, Roger. She manages to kills off everything around her, she tells the camera, holding up a wilting flower in a vase.
Related: ‘I threw my arms around Beckett!’ – electrifying first nights, by Ciarán Hinds, Eileen Atkins and more
Directed by Jane Moriarty, the drama seems desperately scrappy and unfocused as Imi speaks in faux cheery tones about her love of Cliff Richard, her chintzy curtains, her sex life and her views on Danny Dyer, as a way to distract herself.
When she finally addresses her relationship with her father, it does not offer up enough, emotionally or dramatically. “Dad was a lot,” she says. She has unenlightening flashes of memory: “Dad had a kinship with seagulls … He talked to them, asked them about their day. No one ever responded. Arseholes.”
Imi’s late grandfather and father feature as disembodied voices (Richard Hope and James Corrigan respectively) but these conversations are banal.
The navigation between laughter and tears difficult and Cave does not take us with her in these switches. Her delivery swings from singalong to stompy, with no emotional nuance and few convincing moments.
Cornay should be credited for grappling with important themes, from young grief to the effect a parent’s suicide leaves on children. The ethics of social media also come into question – Imi unravels dangerously yet the more distressed and harrowing her story becomes the more viewers she captures. There is most certainly a powerful play to be found in this subject matter but Daddy Issues is not it.
• At Seven Dials Playhouse, London, until 19 November
• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org.