"A brilliant and devastating show." Pic by Bryony Jackson.
Joel Bray’s confessional cross-genre theatre show Daddy opens with the performer in silver briefs, astride a pink couch and swathed by fog. Audience members are summoned to help with holding a backdrop, angel wings, and are encouraged to take photos. It’s a disorientating opening to a brilliant and devastating show that immerses the audience through theatre, dance, and monologue. At the head of its achievement is Bray’s remarkable skills as a storyteller: told through the body or in monologues about queer nightlife and Indigenous international trauma, Bray is in turns hilarious and hard-hitting.
Where a less competent performer’s whiplash between the two might be jarring, Bray is convincing enough as a performer that it flows naturally, the effect never failing to seem organic.
When the choreography, lighting, costuming, sound design, and audience participation – an amount of which feels vaguely nauseating in retrospect but works brilliantly in execution – has all been superbly crafted, it feels petty to point out the flaws. That said, some moments of Bray’s monologues feel weak compared to the rest, particularly when his thoughts are shared in universal terms. There’s an extended metaphor about everyday life that doesn’t quite meet the mark it aims for. These are only brief moments of weakness though. Elsewhere Bray remains totally in command of the mood, with an incredible presence aided by a meticulous design crew.
Altogether, we don’t think anyone left the performance space without a sense they had seen something one-of-a-kind and incredible. Daddy, playing as part of YIRRAMBOI Festival, is a brilliant success, and demands to be seen.