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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Responsible Other
Hampstead Theatre Summer 2013

Daisy is a typically stroppy and sulky teenager who has Lupus, the debilitating auto-immune disease that is life-threatening and incurable (though sometimes manageable). That sucks. 

Not only does she feel lousy all the time, and not only does she miss a lot of school and thus feel noticed and singled out in not the nice way, but she's out of the teenage loop and very aware of life going on without her. And that sucks. 

And meanwhile her recently widowed father seems to have nothing better to do with his life than hover over her, constantly fussing and making sure she takes her pills and just there all the time (except when he abandons her just to go off and make a living), and that sucks. 

And of course it's not easy being the man who just got over watching his wife die of cancer and now must stand there impotently watching his child's life threatened. 

The ancillary burdens of illness are the subject of Melanie Spencer's moving drama, which barely touches on the medical aspects of Daisy's illness but sympathetically watches it grind its way into the lives of both father and daughter, squeezing out every aspect of life except itself.

It is a sombre play, with barely a hint of lightness anywhere, and the playwright's earnestness sometimes weighs heavily on it. 

The drama might be easier to bear, and perhaps even more powerful, if we were allowed to glimpse remnants of the 'normal' life that the disease has displaced if Daisy could let her attitude slip for a second to show the little girl's love for her father, or if they could forget themselves for a moment and laugh together before reality caught up with them again. 

The nearest thing to a positive feeling the play allows comes to a secondary character. Overwhelmed not just with emotion but with the logistics of taking Daisy to frequent hospital treatments, her father turns to the sister-in-law he hasn't seen in over a decade, a mentally unstable and agoraphobic woman. 

The simple task of riding a train to London, getting to the hospital and waiting on her own while her niece is treated is frightening, but the woman takes it on and slowly discovers a strength and courage she didn't know she had. 

With the playwright serving as director, Alice Sykes captures all of Daisy's teenage brattiness while never losing our sympathy, while Andy Frame inspires equal empathy as the man fearing he is reaching the limits of his ability to cope, and Tricia Kelly is touching as the aunt rediscovering herself through dedication to her niece. Candassaie Liburd, Yetunde Oduwole and Danielle Box fill supporting roles admirably.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Responsible Other - Hampstead Theatre Downstairs 2013  

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