A Daughter’s A Daughter, one of Agatha Christie’s lesser known and rarely performed plays , which was a very late addition to the programme at the Trafalgar Studios, running for just four weeks before The Caretaker takes over. It was written under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott, who was Christie’s alter ego for more romantic material, and is seen here for the first time in over 50 years in only its second ever large-scale staging.
It eschews the familiar thriller territory of Christie’s regular work for a more intimate drama, a tale of the relationship between a mother and daughter who allow bitterness, jealousy and resentment to challenge the bonds between them. Returning from 3 years in the army at the end of the Second World War, Sarah Prentice discovers a cuckoo in her family nest, her mother Ann is now engaged to a chap who is equally unfond of the new arrival in the life of his betrothed. In a battle of wills, Sarah’s behaviour then forces Ann into making the choice between her daughter and her fiancé: Sarah ‘wins’ but at a massive price, as we follow the pair for the next few years as they futilely search for happiness and comfort in men and booze whilst not letting go of the resentment and selfishness between them.
The mother is played by Jenny Seagrove and the daughter by Honeysuckle Weeks and between them they deliver cut-glass accents, icy hauteur and the sense of entitlement of the upper classes extremely well. I do find Seagrove a difficult actress to warm to, so it was nice to see her cutting loose a tiny bit at the beginning of the second act, but I would still like to see her be more natural on stage (or play a character who’s not an upper-class b*tch). Weeks was excellent at playing the spoilt brat, but as ever with unlikeable characters, found little to pull the audience in: her constant refrain of “why don’t you like me” had an answer that echoed resoundingly in my head! The show belongs to Tracey Childs though in a brilliant scene-stealing part as Dame Laura whose biting one-liners and rapier wit seemed to have wandered in from an Oscar Wilde play (and making me wish I’d made the effort to see her in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf).
The pricing for this is insane though, £50 as a regular price? You must be kidding. Discounts are now available, but they’re still asking for £40 for Saturday nights which seems out of kilter with the rest of the off-West-End theatres: even if this were a good show I would have a hard time recommending such outlay. And £3.50 for a programme, it’s not even a good example of the oeuvre either. All these things add up to the whole theatrical experience and on this evidence, I feel that Trafalgar Studios have some work to do: as Ann says in the play “I can’t bear it, I just can’t bear it!”