A Hundred Minus One Day

Fri 16th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Christian Kriticos

at 09:53 on 20th Aug 2013

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“If you live to be a hundred, I want to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” This quotation from A. A. Milne’s ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ provides ‘A Hundred Minus One Day’ with its title. Unfortunately, Another Soup’s production never manages to attain the level of charm, wit and poignancy that its source material frequently attains so effortlessly.

The play opens with Jen, a twenty-year-old with an unspecified terminal illness, returning home to her father to be looked after in the final stages of her life. Back in her childhood home, Jen is confronted by a figure from the past: her hyperactive, and aptly named, imaginary friend Daphne. Although Idgie Beau, who also wrote the play, is able to carry off the demeanour of an energetic and childish imp very well, none of it is particularly funny. In fact, in a moment that struck me as unconsciously self-referential, Jen tells Daphne “You’re not as funny as you think you are”.

Oddly, it was the somewhat reserved character of Jen’s father, played by Charlie Warner, who had the only laugh-out-loud line of the play: in response to finding Jen in bed with a one night stand. when he brings her breakfast in bed, he simply says “I should have made more toast”. These comedic moments are also somewhat clumsily balanced with moments of drama, as Jen tries to deal with the encroaching shadow of her mortality. Arguments seem to suddenly erupt out of nowhere, and disappear just as quickly.

However, the play is not entirely unsuccessful. The father’s monologue towards the end is well-written and performed with stoic dignity by Charlie Warner. The set design is also to be commended, allowing Idgie Beau’s Daphne to make several sudden and surprising entries. The subtle inclusion of a black skull on Jen’s bedside table, flanked by a pair of costume angel wings on the other side of the stage, illustrates some intelligent thought behind the production, representing the twin realities Jen faces.

‘A Hundred Minus One Day’ had its moments, and there is certainly some potential. However, it often descended into cliché and, even for a production of only forty five minutes, it still felt overly long.

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Hannah Greenstreet

at 09:57 on 20th Aug 2013

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'A Hundred Minus One Day' is a play about having to grow up too fast and what happens when you have an illness that even Calpol cannot cure. The set, Jen’s bedroom, is littered with the remnants of her childhood, including stuffed animals and a rack of colourful dressing up clothes. This and Daphne’s crazy costume attest that, despite its dark subject matter, there is something genuinely fun about this production.

The strength of the piece lies in the relationship between Jen and Daphne. Idgie Beau, who wrote the script, drives the play as Daphne, Jen’s imaginary friend, who springs out of Jen’s dressing up box after many years of neglect. Daphne is halfway between child and adult and Beau plays her with gusto, veering from fascination with her discovery of breasts, boys and alcohol, to pranks and temper tantrums. Steffi Walker tackles the role of Jen sensitively, gradually relapsing back into childhood to make the most of the last months of her life. Walker does not always achieve the necessary emotional weight in the play’s medley of light and shade. Despite this Beau and Walker make an engaging double act, particularly when they are simply fooling around.

There are moments in the writing that feel underdeveloped. The situation of a twenty-year-old returning to live in her childhood home, even without the terminal illness and the resurfacing imaginary friend, has great dramatic potential. However, the relationship between Jen and her father is not sufficiently explored, in part due to the writing and in part Charlie Warner’s acting, which is sometimes hesitant, although this does pick up towards the end of the play. Jen’s one night stand in her childhood bed seems gratuitous; Morten Jacobson as ‘Man’ says one line and never appears again. As well as this, Jen’s terminal illness is irritatingly unspecific and only suggested by Walker’s frequent coughing.

Nonetheless, the ending is poignant, both from a writing perspective and due to the small directorial details, such as Daphne making one of the bears on Jen’s bed put its paw around the other. 'A Hundred Minus One Day' is a little whimsical but will make you feel nostalgic if you have ever had an imaginary friend.

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