Precious Little Talent
No slight return from award-winning playwright
This article is from 2009.
After last year’s award-winning Eight – which has since played to acclaim in London and New York – emerging playwright Ella Hickson returns with a truly lovely piece of theatre, one that proves she can write dialogue as confidently as she mastered the monologue form. Precious Little Talent is not snappy or witty, but it is richly evocative and occasionally comic, seamlessly integrating a love story with its representation of strained family ties and the general despair with which many of today’s graduates (of whom Hickson is one) are confronting the recession-soaked world.
After losing her job in a bar, English Joey goes to New York in search of her estranged father, George. There she meets 19-year-old, wide-eyed Sam, who confronts her disillusionment with his quintessentially American brand of undying optimism. Crucially, the play is set in that euphoric post-Obama election, pre-inauguration period, and there’s an unashamed sweetness about it that wholly befits its Yuletide backdrop.
Hickson’s blissful writing comes to life with the help of skilful acting from Emma Hiddleston’s sarcastic, Topshop-clad Joey and Simon Ginty’s winning turn as Sam. But it’s John McColl’s portrayal of George, slowly slipping into dementia, that is the true highlight of Precious Little Talent. His wonderful performance, subtle yet strongly emotional, memorably highlights the poignancy of small moments, like attempting to shave or playing Trivial Pursuit, and positions this former journalist as a new and impressive acting talent.
Essentially, it’s the juxtaposition of George’s helpless situation with Joey’s apathetic attitude that underpins the playwright’s message. As she so charmingly puts it: ‘Weigh your present against the dreams you had as a child, and woe betide the man who falls short.’ If she continues to produce such sophisticated and eloquent work, it’s unlikely Hickson will have the same regrets when old age comes calling.
Bedlam Theatre, 225 9893, until 29 Aug (not 23), 2.30pm, £8.50 (£6.50).