Einstein's Daughter

Rob Johnston

Freerange Theatre Company

The Continental, Preston

On 15 November 2012

Review by David Upton

Time and space play their own part in this hugely-assured piece of writing, which has already earned playwright Rob Johnston a national award.

It’s nothing to do with the Theory of Relativity though, but a lot more to do with the relative distances between three key characters.

Maggie earned her nickname Einstein’s Daughter at school, a cruel epithet for a withdrawn adolescent with a physicist for a father. She’s somewhere on the autistic spectrum, lost in the space created by her parents’ infidelities.

While he’s away delivering a lecture an old schoolfriend comes back into her life, a ‘free radical’ who threatens to become the catalyst for change in the father and daughter’s existence.

Through three sharply-defined characters Johnston serves up a miniature masterclass in how to construct a story, allow its inhabitants to move neatly backwards and forwards in time, and even share some of their inner thoughts. Almost incidentally it also becomes a thrilling drama, with a twist that would have suited Hitchcock.

If you were looking for the template for a creative drama writing course this would be it.

Freerange Theatre Company, originally hailing from Lancaster, has been touring the play around the region since the summer, but it still delivered no less of an emotional punch on its final night here.

As Maggie, Emma Parker was quite astonishing as the quivering young woman trapped by her father’s ego. The strains of creating such a performance were evident at the final curtain. Hugo Chandor, who gave an equally memorable portrayal of an aloof academic in this company’s production of Oleanna, is comfortably at home in a very similar role.

Amy Spencer, as the homecoming Cath, completed three terrific performances in 80 minutes of absorbing theatre, fully appreciated by a capacity audience in this little gem of a venue.