Daddy Developed a Pill is probably the most bonkers show you’ll see this year.
Written by Cassie Hamilton, directed by LJ Wilson and produced by Snatched Theatre Collective in association with Bakehouse Theatre, this eccentric and surreal farce was brought to life by a group of queer theatre makers and is showing at Kings Cross Theatre until the 18th of June.
Cynthia (Sarah Greenwood) is rich, cruel and spoilt. But she’s got a chip on her shoulder—all she wants is the approval of her pharmaceutical-mogul Daddy, (the one who developed the pill that made the family rich, before abandoning that family and moving in with his new boyfriend). In a ploy to get his attention and affection, Cynthia develops her own pill and throws a big party to celebrate the first test subject: herself. Will Daddy show up? Maybe. But who will show up is a line-up of fifteen eccentric, self-centred party guests, all played by Jack Francis West and Clay Crighton.
Over the night, these guests pop in and out of the three doors that anchor Kate Beere’s pink, sparkly set. As the night goes by, Cynthia’s pill begins to kick in and her grip on reality loosens. The character transitions get faster and more unhinged, as the lighting (designed by Jesse Greig) and sound (designed by Rowan Yeomans) effectively captures the increasingly unruly party. With these vivid design elements and unrestrained performances, director LJ Wilson evokes an atmospheric cross between Euphoria and Alice in Wonderland, which is quite fun—for a time.
Daddy Developed a Pill feels like a show specifically written to show off the considerable dramatic and comedic talents of Greenwood, Francis West and Crighton. (And in that, it entirely succeeds. The 90-minute farce is a testament to the cast’s versatility and chemistry as an ensemble). But that feels about it. At the 40-minute mark, the gag of the constantly changing characters starts to wane and I was waiting for the story to make its point. However, Hamilton’s script and Wilson’s direction prioritises chaos, silliness and big flashy performances over plot or clarity.
As Cynthia discovers, all house parties have their highs and lows, and watching Daddy Develops a Pill felt a bit like experiencing all the emotions of a party in one sitting. At times, the show’s chaotic and fast-paced tone feels like you’ve taken a handful of illicit substances and they’re all hitting you at once. Where are you? What’s going on? You’re not entirely sure. But you think you’re having fun. Other times the high-energy frantic action all feels like too much, and you crave an intermission (or even a brief quiet moment in the party’s bathroom to collect your thoughts).
Ultimately, Daddy Developed a Pill wasn’t really my thing. The animated and lively performances by the talented ensemble were enough to keep me superficially entertained, but after a while the shtick started to feel repetitive, and I wanted more from the story.
Regardless of my personal taste, I absolutely applaud Bakehouse Theatre for programming such a weird and audacious show. I would much rather see a group of creatives take risks and fall short, than go to the theatre to see a show that plays it safe.