Review: Daffodils, a play with songs, Traverse

Published in Fest on August 8, 2016

Eric’s parents met in a patch of daffodils by a lake. As an 18 year old, in 1964, he sees Rose in that same patch — drunk, covered in mud and vomit — and takes her home. As meet-cutes go, its troubling nature is oddly ignored: this is the start of what seems like a very sweet, very conventional romance, inspired by New Zealand playwright Rochelle Bright’s own parents.

Colleen Davis as Rose and Todd Emerson stand at microphones either side of the stage, talking to the audience like it’s a gig – which this “play with songs” sort of is. The enjoyably rocking Bullet Heart Club play behind them, and Davis and Emerson have great voices.

Daffodils seems like a perfectly pleasant, perfectly pointless play: a straightforward account of marriage-house-babies, pepped up with tunes. Emerson as Eric is a wide-eyed teddy boy, twisting at the mic, but I found Davis’ Rose to be maddeningly, eye-rollingly coy and cutesy. Sure, this is a romance of its time, but she’s so passive.

Deceit and misunderstandings creep in. Eric is keeping secrets – but are they the ones Rose suspects? The content starts to speak to the form: the couple could smooth things out easily enough, but they can never really connect, really communicate. They face front, rather than turning to one another. So the staging’s neat, but the characters’ bone-headed refusal to talk honestly about their relationship also stretches credulity. As it gets more interesting, Daffodils also simply makes less sense; it’s never clear who’s led who up the garden path.

Where next?