Playwright Idgie Beau sets out the parameters of A Hundred Minus One Day quickly and economically; 20 year old Jen, who has lived away from home for many years, has returned to her old family home and childhood bedroom to spend her last few months being looked after by her dad. Diagnosed with an incurable illness, Jen believes she's already travelling light but, no sooner has her dad left the room do we get to the twist; her past literally comes back to 'haunt' her in the shape of her childhood imaginary friend, Daphne.
Performed by Beau herself, Daphne is a chaotic force of childhood exuberance, who almost immediately nags and ultimately persuades Jen to enjoy at least one night out on the town, recapturing the fun of childhood with the added pleasures of alcohol and sex. Yet, if Jen is able, in her last few months, to rediscover the carefree enjoyment of life lost by growing up too soon in the wake of her parents' bitter divorce, poor Daphne is forced to do some growing up of her own, not least recognising her own mortality. After all, what happens to an imaginary friend when the person doing the imagining dies?
In terms of both personality and costume Beau dominates the stage, but she forms a great double-act with Steffi Walker as Jen, the pair carrying the audience from laughter to solemnity and back again. There's good support too from Tom Eklid as Jen's dad, left uncertain and at times almost punch-drunk from what's happening to his daughter.
Winnie the Pooh is referenced repeatedly through the piece, a reminder of the immortality that can exist in childhood memories. A A Milne is, of course, also the source of the title: when Pooh insists: 'If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.' Yet the reality of life, as this play so ably points out, is that we do have to live on without the people we love and make the best of life. A sharp, heartfelt drama which doesn't dare outstay its welcome.