Rebecka Pershagen has clearly had to put up with a lot of judgement in her time. As a self-confessed lover of older men, Daddy Issues seems to be Pershagen’s way of coping with and challenging the onslaught that she is anticipating will be thrown at her for her choice of romantic partners. Pershagen’s show is a sometimes comedic, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes serious one-woman exploration of her experiences of dating older men and the reactions she has received.
Personally, I struggle to understand how, in 2019, people can still be so incredibly judgemental about dating older men. Yet Pershagen’s tone seems hyperbolic and sometimes tips into martyrdom: having a childhood crush on your teacher does not make you a freak, as she suggests she was made to feel it did. But of course her feelings are valid, and maybe her experiences are unique and misunderstood, and therefore justify how necessary her show is, for her and her audience.
Whilst also giving voice to her own experience, Pershagen has created in Daddy Issues a therapist character, who invites the audience in to group therapy to tackle their “deviant behaviour”. The deep sarcasm is thinly veiled and creates moments of humour that appear to come from a place of anger about how people have perceived her. The most real moments come when we hear through a pre-recorded voice the thoughts and reservations of Pershagen’s detractors who question her choice of partner. What’s most heart-breaking is the way these voices clearly come from people close to her, who dress their concerns up in terms of worrying about her. It’s not been easy for Pershagen and, as her audience, she does elicit some of our sympathy.
My frustration with this show is mostly focused on the subject matter. Pershagen uses the counsellor character to challenge the perception that women who love older men do so because of dysfunctional relationships with their fathers, and yet she doesn’t even say the phrase “daddy issues” until the end of the show. I couldn’t help but feel that she misses a prime opportunity to educate her audience and speak with real insight and honesty about how this label is misjudged and reductive, to give voice to what she perceives to be the real root of the myth of the daddy issue. Pershagen has such warmth and bravery to open up about her experiences and she clearly wants to connect with her audience. I am desperate to hear more about what Pershagen has to say on the matter but unfortunately am left slightly unsatisfied.
Daddy Issues played The Old Market until 15 May as part of the Brighton Fringe. For more information, see the Brighton Fringe website.