The Play About my Dad
Jermyn Street Theatre
Reviewed – 29th June 2018
“Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo”
It is hard to imagine the horror of being caught up in Katrina, the category five hurricane that caused catastrophic damage along the gulf coast of America in 2005. Along with claiming some 2,000 lives it caused $125 billion worth of property damage as well as having a profound impact on the environment.
To do justice to the panic, horror and loss those involved must have experienced in a stage show is very difficult. However Boo Killebrew has written a play that travels through many times and places and successfully achieves that.
The Play About My Dad is an autobiographical account of her own experiences of the event along with stories of some that experienced the full force of Katrina. Running alongside these stories, which are fictionalised versions of what likely happened to them, is her reaction to the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the subsequent reconnection with her father following his survival of the hurricane.
The two main characters are Boo herself (Hannah Britland) and her father Larry (David Schaal), a doctor called into action when the storm struck and who serves as the play’s narrator. They are performing and writing a play that tells these stories and it is an interesting vehicle that allows Boo to interact with the characters despite her having been partying in New York at the time.
We are introduced to the young Thomas family who decide not to evacuate to safer ground. Joel Lawes as Jay Thomas projects a relaxed southern approach to life and always has a positive approach to survival not necessarily shared by his wife Rena (Annabel Bates) and son Michael (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah). Also staying put is Larry’s elderly former nanny Essie Watson, played with conviction by Miquel Brown. Ammar Duffus and Nathan Welsh play two Emergency Medical Technicians and they connect and interact well every time they are on stage. There is pessimism and hope in equal measures. Juliet Cowan makes brief but impactive appearances as Sallye Killebrew.
Charlotte Espiner’s set is very basic with pallets, boxes and sheets of plywood that gives the impression of both protection and reconstruction. The lighting design from Ali Hunter is simple but effective with great use of blue under lighting to represent the incoming water and a chilling session when we listen to events in complete darkness.
The direction from Stella Powell-Jones moves the ninety minute no interval play along well ensuring attention is never lost. Elena Peña’s sound design is clever keeping the studio levels of a 175mph hurricane low, though never out of mind.
I felt the cast did everything expected of them, and rarely did I think they were acting. For the writer though, it must be difficult watching someone portray her on stage. In the playbook she writes ‘And as for the actress playing Boo, please make her really likable’. Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo.
Reviewed by Steve Sparrow
Photography by Harry Livingstone
The Play About my Dad
Jermyn Street Theatre until 21st July
Previously reviewed at this venue