A Hundred Minus One Day

Wed 20th February 2013

reviews

Hannah Barber

at 10:09 on 21st Feb 2013

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A Hundred Minus One Day traces an adolescent girl’s struggle to come to terms with her terminal illness in a touching and surprisingly humorous way. Staged in a sumptuous room in Hatfield, with polished wooden floorboards, glittering chandeliers and splendid blue wallpaper and curtains, the spirit of extravagant childhood fantasy is evoked from the very start. The stage was filled with a bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers covered in stuffed animals and a mess of toys, and the nostalgic atmosphere was enhanced by the warm, golden lighting.

On returning home to live with her father, Jen (Steffi Walker) is rejoined and rejuvenated by the imaginary friend from her youth, who helps her to discover the joys of life and make the most of the time she has left. Steffi Walker is brilliant, oscillating between irritation and amusement at the actions of her make-believe playmate, and launching into terrible fits of coughing that are a constant reminder of what she is dealing with. But it is the multitalented Idgie Beau, who also wrote the play, as the imaginary Daphne who steals the show. She bursts out from what I assumed to be a pile of clothes in the corner of the bedroom, and the moment she erupts onto the stage, she brings a vital energy and comedy to the performance. Dressed in a garish Barbie top that is too short and startling stripy green shorts, she is an absolute joy to watch, constantly on the move, naive and mischievous, reminding me irrepressibly of Alice from the Vicar of Dibley. There are some wonderful instances of physical comedy, such as when Jen and Daphne perform their secret clapping rhyme pact, which compliment the witty dialogue.

The play is interspersed with more serious moments which bring to the surface the emotional undercurrents which can never quite be forgotten. Director Steph Taylor makes good use of lighting, having lamps darken and flash when Daphne – and by association Jen herself – becomes angry at the unfairness of her situation. The end scenes occur after Jen’s death and Tom Eklid, who plays her father, recovers from his awkward earlier performance to give a heartfelt and convincing speech at her funeral. Though Jen has gone, Daphne lives on in his mind, and A Hundred Minus One Day ends with the mixture of poignant sadness and humour which impressed throughout. A fantastic play.

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