Review: Never Mind Where Your Daughter Lies

★★★★☆
Four Stars

A sound close to that of fingernails ripping apart the surface of a glass pane lifts the darkness off the stage. While the characters on stage seem to be celebrating a marriage, the penetrating sound mutes any conversation.

A sinister sense of foreboding accompanies the prologue of John Oxley and Douglas Taylor’s drama Never Mind Where Your Daughter Lies. The matrimony of Thomas and Jane is supposed to seal the wounds and ease the tensions between their two families. While that is not a new scheme to the drama world, there is something inexplicably unique about this script.

Orchestrated in perfect symmetry, the eight characters drive the fragile peace into a deadlock as the celebrations progress. William has a special interest in revoking the union, he cannot let go of his romantic past with Jane. His key is Jane’s desperate brother Oliver, who owes him a sum of money large enough to betray his own sister. With a poem that Oliver is supposed to read to Thomas, William intends to expose Jane’s debauched past.

There they stand, in all their misery, pain muting their words. The disillusion is com- plete as Jane has no pretence of defending her wrongdoings. After a moment of confusion and disbelief, the misery elevates new speed as the characters irrevocably strive for the ultimate catastrophe. Blind in pain, the darkest character of all, Jane’s father Edmund, emerges out of his shadow to fulfil the inevitable doom of the newly wed. It is almost a release as the tensions unleash in the final scenes, culminating in bloodshed.

Playing virtuously on the scale of human misery, this play bears witness to a great script. Oxley and Taylor tell a fragmented story in rhyme and prose that offers dark humour and irony, without the heaviness of bearing a message. The haunting lines (“The past is an unavoidable reality”) were met by a variety of colloquialisms (“People are so fucking stupid”) yet it never slipped into cringe-worthy pseudo adolescence.

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This balancing act between such sinister and airy passages was overall well-executed by an ensemble that united a good share of the Oxford drama world.

Femi Nylander as the frantic husband Thomas delivers an outstanding performance alongside his disillusioned but amiable wife Jane, played by Mary Higgins. With precision, Andrew Crump presented the groom’s brother, displaced in peaceful times and longing back for war days, he loses himself in booze and drugs.

The great variety of experimental techno and classical elements that John Willis fuses into an eclectic soundtrack amplifies the intricacy of the characters and their relations. As the mesmeric plot unfolds and the actors delve into their misery, we can only thank cast and directors for a convincing and unique performance