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A CurtainUp London Review
A Prayer for my Daughter
Thomas Babe's writing may have fallen out of fashion but David Lan's Young Vic makes a brave decision to revive this play with its penetrating and sharply realistic dialogue. As Babe dissects his four characters, two on the "right"side of the law and two not, we get the feeling that heroes and villains cannot be clearly placed, that legality and illegality aren't so easy to predict and that boundaries are fluid.
Cop Kelly (Matthew Marsh), an alcoholic, although on duty, is pre-occupied with the welfare of his desperate daughter who the week before secretly married her violent, punk boyfriend and now is holding a .38 to her head and threatening to kill herself. Kelly's colleague, Jack (Corey Johnson) tells us he is paying alimony to three wives and two lots of child support and he has a drug habit. The suspects are Sean or Simon (Sean Chapman) a Viet Nam veteran in his 40s and Jimmy Rosario (Colin Morgan) younger, agitated Hispanic junkie. Jimmy is described as a punk with the face of an angel. Add to this mix of personalities, Sean's attraction to men and Jimmy's willingness to prostitute himself and the sexuality sub plots abound.
The play is formed from tense permutations as the two cops separate the suspects for interrogation, one pair going off into a different room, in an attempt to obtain a confession to the murder of Mrs Linowitz, the Jewish businesswoman. The performances are outstanding. Matthew Marsh is a seasoned interpreter of American roles and plays the alcoholic bear of a cop who cannot help his own daughter and would rather stay at work than face up to his home life. Colin Morgan, the drama college student discovery as Vernon God Little, in another absorbing performance narrows his eyes and pitches his voice in a whine and shakes like a junkie needing a fix. Corey Johnson as Jack shows how one can manage a job and drug addiction and still have the vanity and time to blow dry and colour his hair. Sean Chapman's Viet Nam vet is oddly likeable — the text describes him as having the air of a professor. When they aren't alluding to the suspects as garbage, the cops call Sean, the beard, maybe a hippie reference.
Giles Cadle's scruffy set is placed on a narrow traverse corridor with the audience stepped either side, often distracting as you find yourself watching your counterparts as the backdrop to the action. I'm not sure that the stage placing added to the claustrophobic feel of offices but they did seem to be at basement level and the decor and furniture have that well worn, greasy with age feel. The noise of the traffic and horns works well in setting the scene. Dominic Hill, the director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, known for its plays of tough realism, directs this 1970s rarity. The point that there isn't much to choose between the goodies and the baddies is, like the seedy corruption of A Prayer for my Daughter, a heavy handed indictment of the American Dream.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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