I hated Daughter. I think, no I seriously hope, that I was supposed to. I’m still grappling with what I actually think of it but what I do know is I’ve not felt so viscerally angry after a piece of theatre before.
I’ve not felt so viscerally angry after a piece of theatre before
Adam Lazarus steps onstage, dressed with pink fairy wings, telling us how much he loves his daughter and starts showing some of his dad dancing. It’s cute but in the back of my head I know this is all a carefully curated act to convince us that he’s one of those perennial ‘nice guys’. I can feel Adam Lazarus the performer trying to convince us not just that we’re supposed to like him, that we are like him. He almost succeeds as well, his portrait of casual, hypocritical and oh-so-blissfully ignorant misogyny cuts deep, starting on the gentler end of systemic gendered violence in which we are all uncomfortably but irrefutably complicit. Anyone in the audience who’s been on the receiving end of invisible but all-too-real systemic violence can see the slippery slope from a mile off: the women, the ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ folks, we’ve zoned out, we’ve seen and felt it all before, and we know it’s only going to get worse. The straight, white men? They’re laughing along with Lazarus. And then we watch him beat up a sixteen year old. No one’s laughing anymore but it’s too little too late.
Until then, I thought Daughter was a seriously clever piece of theatre. It continually asked us where we draw the line when it comes to gendered violence and how much we’re willing to apathetically accept as ‘normal’. And then we watch him beat up a child. By anyone’s standard that’s a pretty clear line, isn’t it? Infuriatingly it lazily lets the audience off the hook. It sets the bar so low that not beating up a child is presented as the bare minimum requirement to not qualify as some kind of monster. The man onstage starts off as just that, a man who’s also a bit of a monster but the man at the end is a grotesque, fundamentally unforgivable caricature. We stepped out of the grey area a long time ago and all the knotty, uncomfortable questions that Daughter threw at us in the beginning are rendered toothless and easy to answer. So why can’t I get it out of my head?
Ultimately I’m not quite sure what Daughter wants to achieve but it’s needled its way into my head and I can’t get it out. It feels like it wants me to be a worse person, to sink to Lazarus’ level and sympathise with him. My only response is “No”. I seriously hope that’s the answer he’s looking for.