Daddy Issues is a dark comedy exploring the life of Natalia, a struggling artist who makes her living through a phone sex line.
We are welcomed into the theatre by an engaging, upbeat soundtrack with songs such as ‘Daddy Cool’ to get us into the zone. Onstage there is a decent set made up of two easels, a chair, a small table with a landline phone, a small blow-up beanbag chair, and a lot of clothing; on the wall, there are also posters of various male celebrities.
The play opens bravely, and the audience is at once woken up by sexual noises as the protagonist Natalia works to please her first client of the day. Natalia is a twenty-something Polish girl who works on a sex line to compensate for her failed artwork.
The start of the piece is awkward and clunky. As much as Natalia opens up to us, I feel disconnected, although the actor, writer and producer of the piece (Anna Krauze) offers us nice energy and lovely brutal sarcasm.
Despite a slightly erratic structure, the script is funny and engaging, and there are some lovely moments in the story that underline the real struggles faced by a girl who has clearly suffered and sees herself as little more than a sexual object. I also really like the honest exploration of confliction and guilt inherent within wanting to be a feminist, but to also be submissive during sex. This is an interesting area to explore and could spark some healthy debate.
The unexpected joy of the production is the original artwork. It is refreshing to see paintings of a close-up vulva for a change, as opposed to the Barbie-like smooth tops of legs that we are used to. The artist (I am assuming Krauze herself) is clearly a talented painter, and it’s nice to see this added layer of talent included in the piece.
As the play progresses I want to know more about the background of the ‘Daddy Issues’ job and the phone sex industry, and it’s a shame the play chooses not to explore these areas further. Nevertheless, there are moments in this play which ought to be applauded; for example, the accurate exploration of the penis seeming to chase us everywhere in our society, whereas the vulva hardly gets a look in. The character of Natalia speaks wisely, and there are certainly moments that I as a woman can relate to, such as wanting to blame the other woman over the cheating man and not understanding why.
Krauze’s work has great potential and I look forward to seeing more of it; her comedy is spot on and keeps the audience engaged. However, the more serious moments in the piece need work, and I wonder if the juggling of many roles has led to a compromise of the quality of the piece. It is however a good play, with charming qualities, and I do recommend checking it out.
Daddy Issues is showing at the Etcetera Theatre until 22nd August. For more information and tickets, see the Camden Fringe website.