She followed up at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009 with an early version of Precious Little Talent, whose greatest strengths were still in the monologues, with some forgivable difficulty in connecting them in what was perhaps an overly ambitious vision for the play as a whole.
She returns now with a revised and expanded version of the play that fulfils all her early promise. It is not a masterpiece of major proportions, but it does what it sets out to do, in an emotionally involving and thoroughly satisfying way.
A nineteen-year-old American lad meets and seems to hit it off with an English girl a couple of years older, only for them to discover that they are already connected through coincidence. She is in New York to find the father from whom she has been estranged, but the older man is in the early stages of dementia, and the boy is his paid carer.
The father desperately wants to keep the truth of his condition from his daughter - in a particularly moving monologue he explains what a terrible insult it would be to make her watch him forget her. The daughter has her own reasons for feeling rootless and needing to anchor herself to something or someone to give her a sense of identity. And the boy, one of nature's gentlemen, is torn between attraction ot the girl and loyalty to the man.
In the course of a Christmas season we watch them dance around each other, alternately reaching out and drawing back in self-protection, as we are guided to hope for a happy ending by the playwright's evident and infectious love for all three of them.
My imperfect memory of the Edinburgh version tells me that Hickson has retained the strong set pieces - in addition to the father's monologue, there are delightfully inconsistent accounts of their first meeting by the boy and girl - and fleshed out the scenes involving all three, building our sense of their growing trust and connection to each other.
She has also played down an attempt in the original to overlay a metaphoric contrast between British pessimism and American optimism, much to the play's benefit - as much as I admire the ambitiousness of that added layer, it is best saved for another play.
Keeping the focus on the three characters allows director James Dacre and the cast - Ian Gelder (father), Olivia Hallinan (daughter) and Anthony Welsh (carer) - to create and sustain a reality we respond to.
I don't want to overpraise this play. It is a small work, but it achieves its aim of making us believe in and care about its characters, and that is no modest achievement.
Here is what we said about the Edinburgh Fringe production in 2009:
Precious Little Talent
Return to Theatreguide.London home page.
- Precious Little Talent - Trafalgar 2011