Meet Father (Adam Lazarus). Father is, or so it seems at first, just like so many men, a doting father filled with concerns now he has a young daughter to protect. We know he is a good father by the way he lovingly describes her and how they dance together to her favourite music. What could be any more typical and loving?
What follows is perhaps some of the most uncomfortable and intense theatre you are likely to see for a very long time. It all starts quite innocently. After Father gives us a highly amusing dance demonstration, he proceeds to tell us about his life, both before marriage and after. It’s a warts and all confession; his teenage self’s downloaded porn collection, broken down into all its separate files for the various categories, his visits to strip clubs, his conquests, his affairs. And during it all he keeps addressing the audience, questioning us on whether we have done the same, because surely, it’s all perfectly normal? Except it’s not, it’s uncomfortable, it’s demeaning. Yet we are complicit in it all. As he reminisces about his past, painting a picture of himself that is not at all pleasant, no-one really objects or disagrees, even when he starts asking us directly if we wouldn’t do the same.
And then there is his daughter. Young, vulnerable, female. As Father he has to protect her. It’s his duty, his role as a father, at any cost. Because he is the male. He is the strong one, the defender of the weaker sex.
Over the course of 70 minutes, we are constantly questioned over what our acceptable limits are, where the line in the sand should be; who even decides that. And whilst early on the tension is every so often broken with a little humour, as we approach the zenith, the humour has gone, it is now vicious, ugly. And yet we are still complicit in allowing this to continue.
The ending is without doubt one of the most intense I have ever experienced in a theatre. With the lighting kept high at the outset (and easy to mistake as being because of the BAC’s relaxed performance policy), its not until the end when both lighting and sound come into their own in a way that leaves the audience breathless, not daring to move, to utter a sound, not until we’re sure it’s over.
My day job for 14 years has been working in social housing. In many ways this has left me desensitised to things other would find shocking. When your day to day conversation can often mean discussing the n’th case of domestic abuse, maybe some child grooming, the occasional questionable death, it’s very easy to watch these topics played out on the stage and not be quite as shocked as those around you. After all, real life will always trump what we can put on stage, surely?
It’s for this very reason that Daughter is such a powerful piece of theatre. Because it left me shocked, it left me squirming in my seat, it left me actually questioning myself. It is easy to see how some in the audience may walk out at the end (or I’m sure on some occasions half way through) shaking their heads in utter disgust at what they have just witnessed, but for those who believe theatre should be about making you ask those difficult questions, Daughter cannot be faulted.
There is a post-show conversation with Aislinn Rose, Artistic Director of The Theatre Centre, where this piece was originally staged and created. It is well worth staying to hear not just Aislinn talk about the show but hear what others made of it. A very lively debate is almost guaranteed.
Written and performed by: Adam Lazarus
Co-created by: Adam Lazarus, Ann-Marie Kerr, Jivesh Parasram & Melissa D’Agostin
Directed by: Ann-Marie Kerr
Produced by: The Theatre Centre in association with Glynis Henderson Productions
Playing until: 28 March 2020
Booking link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45647/whats_on/whats_on/shows/daughter