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Daddy Issues at Seven Dials Playhouse – review

Bebe Cave stars in Lewis Cornay's new play

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Bebe Cave
© Helen Murray

We are watching a young woman live-streaming, via Instagram, a wake for her dog, Roger. "2022-2022" reads a paper cutout of a dog bone stuck to the wall, and Imi (Bebe Cave) scribbles red tears and love hearts over pictures of the pup. In the first five or so minutes (plus the incoming) of Daddy Issues, directed by Jane Moriarty, Cave is entirely silent, moving around the economic set preparing for this event. She has the audience captivated as she applies make-up and takes awkward selfies on a timer, slowly creeping away from the ring light her phone is attached to before the sound of the shutter pierces the quiet.

But for all the ritual, this Halloween night is not really about Roger. It's the first anniversary of the suicide of Imi's Dad, and Lewis Cornay's script sees Imi begin to unpack her feelings about the event, and her relationships with her family. Amidst the questions of shared taste (she loves Cliff Richard now because her father did and his father did) and whether the memories she has are even entirely true, Imi is interrupted by the voices of her father and grandfather who tell her things she perhaps doesn't want to hear. It's a bit cliché. Dressed like a Grim Reaper in ripped tights with a homemade ‘Live, Laugh, Slay' scythe (Sophia Pardon), this is maybe not the haunting Imi expects.

Andrew Exeter's set is the kind you want to live in. Though noted as Imi's grandad's annexe, the orange-pink set looks like a mould for a doll's house. That is, until you start to notice a door handle in the middle of a frame on the wall, or an upside-down lamp on the ceiling. Things are slightly off-kilter; hot ribena appears in the washing machine, a gift from her past self.

Daddy Issues encapsulates the performative honesty of so many's mental state on social media. Imi jokes about triggering people, declaring herself "unhinged" with "zero illusions about being fucked up". Her deadpan jokes are the kind often seen on TikTok ("sugar daddies in the house tonight!" she sings, to the tune of 2011 banger "Party Rock Anthem") – they catch you off guard, make you laugh, but also question if everything really is okay. It's a new generation of being honest online – and being happy to watch. Interestingly, the poster (which sees Cave holding an urn filled with confetti) is similar to the cover of Jennette McCurdy's recent memoir "I'm Glad My Mom Died", which covers similar topics.

There are a plethora of funny one-liners peppered throughout the script, but at times it feels like a stitching together of tweets – surface level, not necessarily going anywhere or delving deeper. Though Cave gives an assured performance, there is little pay off. The final moments feel laboured, predictable. The show doesn't cover much more than shows of a similar theme have, but it is an intimate and provoking piece exploring grief, mental health and social media which many can surely relate to.

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