Lewis Cornay’s Daddy Issues, premiering at The Seven Dials Playhouse is remarkable for more reasons than one. This sixty-five-minute, one person play directed by Jane Moriarty has the disarming quality of being able to make you howl with laughter while tackling some distressing themes.
In some seaside resort we meet Imi, formerly Imogen, who is now trying to reinvent herself. It’s Halloween and almost immediately Imi takes a swipe at the all too common costumes that require the word ‘sexy’ as a prefix. Imi’s own costume is that of grim reaper, though the only people who see it will be the viewers of her Instagram live – and that’s not all that many.
The costume is just one device that Imi is using to hide her true self, because for all her witty observations, and insistence that tonight is a wake for her beloved puppy Roger, it’s also the anniversary of her Father’s suicide. As his voice constantly interrupts her broadcast, Imi knows it’s all in her head, but whether or not she chooses to listen to what he has to say is another matter.
Suicide is the key theme here, but importantly Daddy Issues chooses to focus on the people who are left behind, trying to pick up the pieces of their own lives. Imi is clearly struggling, her cringe-worthy attempts on social media being just one indicator of just how much help she needs.
Cornay’s script is beautifully and sensitively written, utilising comedy as a device to explore this traumatic subject. It takes enormous skill as a writer to pull this off as well as Cornay does, because it never once feels like the play is making light of the subject or diminishing the feelings of those affected. Imi’s anger at her father is teased out slowly, in subtle and nuanced ways and it’s a joy to see a character so perfectly developed.
Bebe Cave gives is outstanding in the role of Imi; each line is delivered with the exact amount of comic timing or gravitas as required by Cornay’s script. As Cave effortlessly flips between the lighter and darker sides of the plot, it becomes clear that this is one of these tour-de-force performances that is not to be missed.
The small stage of the Seven Dials Playhouse is utilised well, with Andrew Exeter’s charming set, sitting at an angle and almost entirely orange, creating both the feeling of freedom afforded to Imi by her phone and internet connection, and the feeling of being constrained in both physical and metaphorical terms. Jane Moriarty allows Cave to explore the stage, while talking directly to the audience who take on the role of the anonymous Instagram users who remain gripped as the tale unfolds.
Daddy Issues is a rare treat, in that it takes on a weighty subject, but still allows the audience to feel like they are allowed to laugh and enjoy themselves. It’s sparkling with wit while at the same time providing a tragic commentary on both modern society and the pain of losing a loved one.
Daddy Issues is at Seven Dials Playhouse until 19th November 2022.