Jeremy O Harris’ “Daddy” A Melodrama receives a fantastic production at Almeida Theatre, better than the play itself for the most part
“You have money, but the taste is like, booty”
One of the more anticipated casualties of lockdown, Jeremy O Harris’ “Daddy” A Melodrama arrives in some style at the Almeida. Matt Saunders’ Bel Air mansion design dominated by its swimming pool is jaw-droppingly good and Danya Taymor’s production reflects that largesse in many aspects, saturating its audience right from the off (and soaking them too, if you’re in the front couple of rows!).
But when you take away the glitz and the glamour, the gospel choirs, the full-frontal nudity, the repeated use of the N-word, even Harris’ reputation, we’re left with a fairly good play about sex and art, about gay relationships with age gaps and the fallout of becoming the next hot thing. It is clumsily structured though, the playwright still learning how to do complex without veering into unnecessarily convoluted.
Franklin is a young black American artist and Andre is an older, white European collector who has added Franklin himself to his collection as they start a sexed-up liaison. But as things get more serious both in their personal entanglements and their professional relationship, the arrival of Franklin’s mum Zora sets the stage for a…melodramatic melange of insightful commentary on sex, race and art and soapy nonsense.
Performance levels are strong. Terique Jarrett impresses as Franklin, perma-bewildered by events around him, Claes Bang is brilliantly on the edge of sleaziness and Sharlene Whyte damn well near steals the show with a barnstorming turn. Even supporting characters all get to cut through with some sharp writing. But “Daddy” is very much Harris in the making, him still refining his craft. Such ambition has to be admired though.