(Jeremy Kingston's review appeared in The Times of London, 12/17.) 

A Daughter’s a Daughter, Trafalgar Studios, SW1

Here is an unexpected treat, a 50-year-old play by the novelist Mary Westmacott, who under another name wrote about 100 detective novels and several plays, one of which has been running in London for 57 years. That other name is, of course, Agatha Christie.

Christie persuaded Peter Saunders, who staged her Mousetrap in 1952, to try out A Daughter’s a Daughter and it ran for one week in Bath. This was in 1956 and it is hard to believe that the short run was due to an unfavourable reception because this turns out to be a rattling good play. Old-fashioned, certainly, in the way that many plays of that period have difficulty dealing with more than two characters at a time.

I want to think that Saunders never intended the run to be more than that brief flowering, and a possible reason is that while the play provides terrific opportunities for the two principals — a mother and her daughter (roles played here in Roy Marsden’s clever production by Jenny Seagrove and Honeysuckle Weeks) — it is not about murder and the ending is pungently bleak. But in a sense the play is about a murder, the murder of a woman’s happiness because she puts love for her daughter before a proper regard for herself.

In the opening scenes, set in 1945, the characterisation is fairly simple. The newly demobbed daughter, Sarah, returns to her mother’s home after three years abroad and wants everything to be the same as before. Appalled to find that her widowed mother, Ann, intends to remarry, she sets about preventing this and succeeds because her mother refuses her nothing.

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