Holding up a dark mirror to the contemporary male, this solo show, performed by Canadian actor Adam Lazarus, is difficult to admire in any conventional sense.
In fact, Daughter will strike many as an unnecessarily hateful work of theatre. Or just unnecessary, period.
Lazarus warms up the audience – which was about 70 per cent female on this occasion – with an act of seduction. He’s just a regular guy, right? Just a guy trying to get through parenthood as best he can. Wearing fairy wings over his grey hoodie, he demonstrates the dance his seven-year-old daughter taught him.
And yes, he dances just like a dad.
He then gets into the detail of his daughter’s birth, the nitty gritty of what happens when all the preparations you’ve made (the hypno-birthing course, the iPhone playlist) go out the window.
His recollections are tough to listen to – especially if you’ve been in a similar situation yourself – but Lazarus still comes across as likeable, if prone to oversharing.
Confidence established, he feels empowered enough to open up. He tells us about losing his virginity and about his teenage porn addiction. He describes in the frankest detail the contents of his hard drive.
By now it feels like he’s pushing the friendship. The enthusiasm for self-revelation begins to feel like an entitlement. A note of shamelessness – even pride – creeps in.
The contract between audience and performer sours.
But Lazarus doesn’t stop there. He pushes into darker territory still. Much of it mightn’t come as any news but that doesn’t make the reception of those images – some of them violently misogynistic – any easier.
You could, of course, walk out. A small number did. Everyone else hunkered down and in various ways, one suspects, suffered.
Lazarus is, I have to say, quite riveting to watch. His storytelling skill is unquestionable and his nerve considerable. Seldom, if ever, have I seen a performer willing to alienate an audience in this way and the seething climax to the show is shockingly powerful.
But what value is there in going there with him – if, indeed, you can?
We’re accustomed to theatre shows that make us feel in some way bonded to our fellow audience members. Daughter is bracingly different. In the end, it’s just you and it, and when the lights come up, it feels less like the conclusion of a performance and more like the adjournment of a trial.