Daddy is a performance that dazzles as it simultaneously balances upon a razor-sharp edge of wit and heartbreak. In a manner that few performers ever manage to fully realise, Daddy is a deft portrayal of personal reflection, dripping with social antidotes. At its peak, this performance is an exercise in vulnerability and wearing one’s heart on their sleeve.
The humour is sharp, and the tragedy cuts through the smoky air of the performance space – an experience which is altogether endearing to the point of leaving audiences short of breath and with hearts having jumped into mouths. The material crosses over and between Joel Bray’s connection to his Indigenous and queer cultures, but also interrogates how easily disconnection can, and has, been formed. The intersection here is clear and precise – ricocheting between both states without apology. A commanding presence, which plays to the nuances, the light, the dark and the shade.
Audience participation is pivotal to the experience as a whole, from makeshift stagehands to impromptu dance partners, audience are well and truly central to the action. But what differentiates this performance from others that employ similar tropes, is that audience participation doesn’t feel forced – more so they want to play their part. Looking around the performance space mid show, and at the faces of fellow audience members, it is clear that Bray has struck just the right emotional chord.
Not all physicality hits the mark, however, and perhaps this was intentional, but I found such jarring inclusions to be a couple of momentary glitches in an otherwise brilliantly realised vision. Other passages of choreography were near luminary, and worked within the shifting physical parameters of the space. How the audience were moved around during, and as part of, the performance, was a perfect example of space being used to the extreme and most complete effect.
The works musicality is subtly affecting, as it moves through various genres, from soundscapes to booming electro. Later scenes create a monumental shift in energies, and the kind of peak expected, lest found in a great performance. And that is exactly what Daddy is – great performance, one that takes no prisoners and places its audience firmly outside their comfort zone.
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