THE SCREENWRITER’S DAUGHTER – Leicester Square Theatre

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★★★★
Leicester Square Theatre, London – until 29 November 2015
Guest reviewer: Terry Eastham

American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist and novelist Ben Hecht was justly honoured not only with the first Oscar awarded for a screenplay in 1927, but in a career spanning well over forty years, has been lauded with every honour that such a writer can receive, including a posthumous induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

However, with all this adulation and praise, it is easy to forget that Ben was a human being with the standard range of hopes, dreams and emotions that we all have inside us. Larry Mollin’s one-act play The Screenwriter’s Daughter, getting its European premiere at the Leicester Square Theatre, explores the human side of Ben and this relationship with his daughter over the course of one day in 1964.

The show starts with Hecht (Paul Easom) phoning his daughter Jenny (Samantha Dakin). Each of the characters takes a moment to tell the audience about the other and the type of person they are. Ben is now seventy and is pretty much set in his ways. He loves his wife – even if he does stray with his secretary – and daughter and wants to ensure that they are properly looked after.

Jenny, on the other hand is a flower child, wanting her freedom and living in what seems to be some sort of commune with Steve (Tom Hunter) and May Mountain (Laura Pradelska), who seem to share everything, including each other, in their pursuit of the hippy lifestyle. The reason for the call is that Jenny (an actress by profession) is determined to set off with her friends in the Living Theatre Company to Europe where they plan to start a revolution amongst the downtrodden workers against the bloated capitalists that abuse them – a pretty standard idea amongst youngsters in the 60’s. Ben however, is going to use every means at his disposal to try and stop her. Over the course of the day, father and daughter meet and talk, each trying to get the other to understand their point of view, with Jenny desperate for her father’s blessing for the trip and Ben determined it is never going to happen. Words which can never be unsaid are exchanged and the two of them realise that they have reached a critical moment in their relationship.

It is so easy to forget that the rich and famous are human but The Screenwriter’s Daughter really demonstrates this in superb form. I can imagine that there were many parents in the audience for whom the conversations between father and daughter during the show brought back many memories of similar confrontations. The struggle between these two forceful characters – each of whom believes they know best – is probably worse than it would be for a ‘regular’ father and daughter since wealth and privilege play quite a significant part in their discussions- with Ben virtually offering his daughter the lead in any Broadway play she wants in order to persuade her to stay – little realising that this use of his position is partially the reason she needs to leave.

Without being disrespectful to the rest of the cast, I think that this show would have been much better as a simple two-hander. Both Paul and Samantha totally dominated the very small performance space – which adds a wonderful sense of the claustrophobia Jenny believes she feels – which simultaneously covers two separate locations. There was a good chemistry between the two hinting at earlier times when father and daughter were united. Both actors are extremely good in their parts and I was amazed at how well Pauls’ Ben managed to keep his temper in check with his wilful and, to his mind, misguided daughter who was not above spitefully throwing everything she had ever received in his face. Having said that, there was a lovely moment where Director Anna Ostergren used the entire cast to great effect, breaking the fourth wall in a rather unexpected but very entertaining way.

Overall, then I quite enjoyed The Screenwriter’s Daughter. I’m not sure it gave me that much more of an insight into the real lives of Ben and Jenny – in some respects, this could have been a story about any conservative father/rebellious sprog – but I do think it was an interesting reminder that having everything does not necessarily mean you have everything and it was ultimately an enjoyable piece of theatre.

The Screenwriter’s Daughter – Leicester Square Theatre Until 29th November

★★★★

Guest Review by Terry Eastham

 

 

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Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Having been a performer for many years, Caroline knows first hand how much the support of a good audience is valued, appreciated and needed. She is passionate about all performing art, but has a particular interest in new writing and Off-West End productions. Having reviewed for other publications, she set up her website, Carn’s Theatre Passion, to provide more exposure for these areas, as well as news, views, interviews and information on all stage-related matters.
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Caroline Hanks-Farmer on FacebookCaroline Hanks-Farmer on InstagramCaroline Hanks-Farmer on LinkedinCaroline Hanks-Farmer on PinterestCaroline Hanks-Farmer on RssCaroline Hanks-Farmer on TwitterCaroline Hanks-Farmer on Youtube
Caroline Hanks-Farmer
Having been a performer for many years, Caroline knows first hand how much the support of a good audience is valued, appreciated and needed. She is passionate about all performing art, but has a particular interest in new writing and Off-West End productions. Having reviewed for other publications, she set up her website, Carn’s Theatre Passion, to provide more exposure for these areas, as well as news, views, interviews and information on all stage-related matters.

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