- Eddie Harrison
- 4 August 2019
A father and daughter struggle to find common ground
'People are not kind anymore' agree the duo in Pops, a new play by Charlotte Josephine that explores the darker side of a father-daughter relationship. Pops (Nigel Barrett) sits in his chair, watching baking programmes on television and revelling in rock and roll music. He's firmly stuck in a past that no longer exists other than his mind; the return of his daughter (Sophie Melville) challenges that drab status-quo.
He's given to pronouncements like saying that vegetarians are not real and, as a vegetarian, she feels obliged to correct him. The two are on a collision course, with the daughter connecting without success to a world of job-searches and failing relationships, elements that Pops finds hard to deal with. After his daughter is let down on a proposed date, he tries to comfort her. 'There's plenty more fish in the sea,' says Pops. 'I hate the sea, I'm drowning,' caustically replies his daughter.
It's one of the best lines in a play that doesn't have enough articulation; repeating dialogue is a feature, but a tiresome one, and an extended, near wordless sequence where the characters share a pot of tea doesn't add much. Ali Pidsley's staging also makes proceedings feel a little too much like the shrill hand-wringing of a Radio 4 afternoon play.
The lack of kindness that both characters complain about isn't pinned down to anything more than an encounter with a snooty receptionist, and dramatic flourishes in the staging are at the expense of key character information. Yet Barrett and Melville work wonders to make the central relationship convincing, even if the dance sequences and the actors moving in and out of the audience don't add enough. Perhaps it would be kindest to see this as a work in progress, as Pops depicts the pain of a failing relationship without sufficient quantities of the precious insight required.
Assembly Roxy, until 25 Aug (not 12), 6.35pm, £11–£12 (£10–£11).