Tuesday, 27 May 2014

RELATIVE VALUES: 'Daughter' blooms with powerful narrative, sharp performances

FAMILY MATTERS: Watson (as Mellisa Parkin) and Forbes (as Molly Parkin) in a scene from the play. (Photo: Loop Jamaica)

For My Daughter (Probemaster Entertainment)
Director: David Tulloch
Cast: Leonie Forbes, Rosie Murray, Terri Salmon, Rushae Watson and Akeem Mignott
Venue: Pantry Playhouse, New Kingston

David Tulloch’s For My Daughter is terrific piece of writing for the Jamaican theatre, full of grit, wit and given memorable acting performances from an outstanding cast led by the magisterial Leonie Forbes. But what leaps out at me almost immediately are the striking parallels the play draws with Karl Williams’ 2006 magna opus Not about Eve.

Both works find common ground primarily in their hard-hitting depiction of the lives of three generations of women in a Jamaican family, all living under one roof, grappling with domestic strife, legacy, womanhood, incredible personal sacrifices and the re-emergence of long-buried family skeletons that demand a reckoning with the past.

In the case of For My Daughter, however, audiences should brace for a shocking twist you won’t see coming that rocks the cast to the core as the story crescendoes to a wrenching climax ahead of its bittersweet albeit satisfying conclusion.

Rendering a characteristically commanding portrayal, Forbes slips snugly into the role of Molly Parkin, a charming old bird/ tough cookie whose bitter feud with a longtime nemesis – the busybody pharmacy proprietor Vera LuChen (a superb Terri Salmon) takes on new life. Things only get worse when Vera, who is the Parkins’ landlady, threatens to put the house up for sale.

Janet Parkin (Rosie Murray, excellent) is Molly’s long-suffering middle-aged daughter, a single mother forced to foot the bills cleaning toilets largely due to an unsightly facial scar she’s determined to hide from strangers at all costs. It’s an obstacle to her happiness (you’ll recall the phantom from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera) and it weighs heavily on her free-spirited daughter Mellisa (Rushae Watson), a med-school aspirant in full bloom (“I’m almost thirty!”) who regularly clashes with her mom over her reluctance to cut the apron strings. But she’s the apple of her grandma’s eyes. Akeem Mignott rounds out the cast, playing Mellisa’s suave, mysterious love interest, Keith, and their touching romance adds spark to the whole thing.

With battle lines drawn between Molly and Vera, simmering tension between Janet and Mellisa, all compounded by the desperate struggle to make ends meet and achieve “a better life,” it comes as no surprise that things take an explosive turn with shocking revelations and devastating consequences for all involved.

Very much like Not about Eve, years from now For My Daughter will be remembered not only for its crisp dialogue and vivid portrayals but also for its assured account of family dynamics, Jamaican women at a crossroads and the feverish pursuit of that thing we all ultimately strive for: lasting happiness. Tyrone’s Verdict: A–

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