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  • A Daughter’s a Daughter at the Trafalgar Studios
    by Cornelia at 15:57 on 05 January 2010
    When Sarah Prentice,returns from overseas military service in November 1945 it’s just in time to scotch her mother Ann’s plans to re-marry. ‘I hate change’ she declares, moving the furniture that been changed round in her absence. Not to give away the plot, the rest of the play revolves round the consequences of her selfishness and her mother’s wish to please.

    This play was first written under Agatha Christie's pseudonym Mary Westcott, and opened for just one week at Bath Theatre Royal in July 1956.

    As the premise is somewhat dated –it’s hard to imagine a modern daughter making a similar demand, or a mother listening to her - interest centres round the recreation of a social milieu and its customs. Apart from the single set, there’s much in common with the TV ‘Poirot’ series as well as ‘Foyle’s War’, in which Honeysuckle Weeks starred as a war-time chauffeur. Her Roedean accent and manner limits her range but the part of the spoilt upper-class daughter suits her well. Jenny Seagrove is superbly moving in the more challenging role of the mother.

    The single drawing-room set, with paintings reflecting changes in taste from 1945 to 1949, works very well, as do the costumes and hair styles. While the mother’s suitor is made sympathetic by Simon Dutton, the minor characters jar. These include the ‘stock’ female family retailer, played with suitably weary resignation by Gabrielle Lloyd, and the straight-talking titled family friend, delivered by Tracey Childs in a square-shouldered suit -reminders of Christie’s penchant for caricature. The clichéd dialogue works well enough in a context where the characters are poor communicators because of their social class.

    The talk of cocktails parties, the quaffing of gin and disdain for employment is a tad alienating, a long way from the world of post-war rationing and making do, but reflects Christie’s own social circle. Despite the paucity of wit, it’s closer to the writings of Terrence Rattigan and Somerset Maugham than to the style usually associated with the ‘Queen of Crime’.

    For these reasons and because the small-scale ‘arena’ theatre is particularly suited to psychological drama, the play works surprisingly well.