Cons: Tickets are sold with a warning for ‘disturbing content, sexual content and descriptions of sexual violence’
This year’s Fringe Festival is riddled with plays about male anti-heroes. Men who, talking in the first person, open up about the most despicable actions: Men’s Rights Movement activists, eco-terrorists, obsessive lovers and, in the case of Daughter, a father that nobody would want to be acquainted with.
With reviews spanning from two to five stars, I grew curious to find out why Adam Lazarus’s self-penned work was sparking so much controversy. So, I went to see it with one eye on the stage and another on the reactions of other audience members. My conclusion is that what really upsets everyone is not so much what Lazarus talks about – violence, pornography, adultery, hatred – but the subliminal way he connects to his audience.
Coming on stage with children’s butterfly wings and a pink hairband, the first impression he gives is of a perfect father, a man unafraid to look ridiculous and do silly stuff to entertain his six-year old daughter. He recalls the experience of her birth with a painful abundance of detail and, when he admits that she often drives him crazy, we sympathise with him – we all know that raising a child is a huge challenge.
The first signal that he’s not completely normal comes with the confession of a time he threw his three-year old daughter into bed, exasperated by her constant sleeplessness. “Do you think that was OK?” He asks around the auditorium, inviting us all to make an active choice. Some of us disagree, most remain silent, “No, but I understand that,” says a man at the front.
Somehow, we’re now compelled to empathise with him, praise his honesty and willingness to admit his errors. Most of us have now subconsciously taken his side but, as the anecdotes become more and more reprehensible, we recoil in horror. “He’s an awful person,” says a woman behind me, and I notice the astonishment in her voice.
What we really despise about this man isn’t necessarily his increasingly disturbing confessions, but the fact that we’ve been initially induced to appreciate him and now, against all odds, we still find him likeable. We despise the sudden awareness that a monster can look like a casually-dressed, well-groomed young dad, with a friendly approach and a contagious smile. We hate ourselves for not hating him and this causes us to hate the play instead.
Everything in this production is perfect. The dramaturgy, the sound, the lighting and the direction work together to frame or annihilate Lazarus’s impeccable performance. If theatre is meant to provoke a reaction, this is an absolute masterpiece and I wonder how many personal threats he must have received from those fooled into believing that this play is autobiographical.
Co-Created by: Adam Lazarus, Ann-Marie Kerr, Melissa D’Agostino, and Jivesh Parasram
Director: Ann-Marie Kerr
Co-Produced by: CanadaHub, QuipTake, Pandemic Theatre and The Theatre Centre
Booking Until: 26 August 2018
Box Office: 0131 560 1581
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/daughter