Saturday 11 May 2019

Daddy - Physical Theatre Review

What: Daddy
When: 8 - 12 May 2019
Where: Main Hall, Arts House
Created and performed by: Joel Bray
Directed by: Stephen Nicolazzo
Composed by: Naretha Williams
Design by: James Lew
Lighting and AV by: Katie Sfetkidis
Joel Bray - photo by Bryony Jackson
Sadly the Yirramboi Festival is drawing to a close but there is still a chance to see great shows this weekend.  You may all remember my glowing review of Bray’s show Biladurang earlier this year. Well, he is back with a new show Daddy and this one packs a punch!

The themes of the two shows echo each other; disconnection from father, gay culture, pain, and colonisation. The difference is scope and scale. 

Biladurang rang with the intimacy of hotel rooms whereas Daddy echoes with the grandeur of the history of the world – black, white, and candy floss pink. Bray sugar-coats the pain of colonisation (literally with icing sugar) but as we, the audience, get to lick away the drug of fantasy sweetness we begin to expose the raw truth as Bray sees and feels it.

Daddy is visually stunning (not a suprise as it is directed by Nicolazzo and designed by Lew) and is excitingly dynamic. It begins with Bray posed on pink fairy floss cloud replicating that famous pose of the reaching hand painted by Michealangelo in Rome. 

Bray has the body of Michaelangelo's David too so he merges seamlessly into the renaissance art which he  writhes to replicate in a moving gallery of white, European, christian, canonical art brought down through the ages and dominating the Australian culture. He invites us to help him complete the mis-en-scenes as props and other characters populate the pictures and yes, we can take a photo if we want.

As Bray’s lithe body contorts a sexuality emerges and the subtle question is raised about the Church’s stance on homosexuality. As we partake of his body, licking away the sweet layers of sugar drug from his body the complexity of Bray’s narrative becomes clearer. 

Bray is a white Aboriginal and as he sits us down for a yarn he begins to lead us down the road of identity confusion and the cost. Bray’s confusion is incredibly multi-layered as it is for so many Indigenous Australians. He leans into stereotypes to show how true they are and yet how misleading and crippling they can be.

His whiteness of skin denies his family heritage, as do we when we demand he prove it (as has happened so many times in his life). The price we demand to acknowledge his Aboriginality is archaic cliches such as spear bearing, physical poses, etc - "the indigineous experience" as the Victorian Liberals called it in the last election. 

And yet as much as we demand his authenticity he has never been able/allowed to learn his native language which has been stolen along with generations of new borns. He makes the devastating point that the number of Indigenous children removed from their homes now s a staggering 80% higher than at the time of The Apology!

The generational sexual abuse within his family means he is disconnected from his father and will spend his whole life searching for it in his sexual relationships. It is not all doom and gloom as he takes us into the gay bars and teaches us some hot pick up dance moves.

Bray takes us on a journey from the Sistine Chapel to Chapel Street as he searches for the man he is supposed to be, the man he wants to be, and the man he needs to be – not just a puppet on colonial strings… He seeks answers on YouTube and investigates his art of dance to find a way to blend the two sides of his identity. 

He gets mad. Mad at himself and mad at us. He seeks solace in the crowd and scolds us within two heart beats. Bray cries out in pain and begs for understanding but we like our truths sugar coated and the whole thing ends with a big vanilla icecream sundae.

This season is sold out, so if you don’t have a ticket, you have missed. Hopefully this is show which will come back again and again though!

4.5 stars!

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