A candy coated concoction
By Bradley Storer
At the opening of Daddy last night, the audience entering the performance space were greeted with the sight of Wiradjuri artist Joel Bray, clad only into a pair fluorescent pink hot pants, reclining artfully on a fluffy cloud of fairy floss. This cheeky image slowly morphed through poses of contorted classical imagery alongside grotesque parodies of childish innocence, signalling the wide range of expression Bray would traverse in the next hour.
Mixing fairy tale, contemporary dance, and stylised but emotionally direct text, Daddy is a moving examination of existence at the intersections of queerness and blackness in modern Australia. The continual imagery of a hole needing to be filled operates on multiple levels – an empty stomach hungering for nourishment, an orifice looking for sexual fulfilment, the empty space left by an absent parent, as well as the pulsating wound at the heart of a people ripped apart by colonisation.
Bray is a charming and warm presence throughout, gracefully guiding the audience through tales of his own family and lived experience as a white-presenting Wiradjuri man. His un-amplified voice carries impressively in the intimate space of the State Theatre Rehearsal Room, and he ably manoeuvres audience members through several configurations throughout the room (audience participation is a large part of the performance, but in an entirely voluntary capacity). Bray’s lithe form and skilful dancing are utilised to both hilarious and chilling effect, whether peacocking in the confines of a gay club or contorting in convulsions of loss and pain.
Bray’s generosity of spirit nevertheless refuses to excuse the complicity of modern Australia in the decimation and erasure of Indigenous culture. The molten tirade he unleashes at the climax of the piece stings with cutting truth, particularly in light of continuing Aboriginal deaths in custody, shortened life expectancy and the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prison populations.
Sitting in a space combining dance, theatre and storytelling, Daddy is absolutely delightful – a candy coated concoction disguising bitter truths, and whipped cream concealing the deep wounds of colonialism. An absolute must-see for this year’s Midsumma festival!
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd
Dates: 4 – 8 February
Time: 8pm Tuesday – Saturday, 2pm Saturday
Prices: $30 – $35
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, firstname.lastname@example.org or at the box office.
Photography by Bryony Jackson