Review: Daughter, Battersea Arts Centre

Fathers and their daughters – this relationship inspires a comforting sentimentality for some and a dull reminiscent ache for others, or something altogether a little less dramatic for most. What I mean to say is, everyone’s relationship with their parents is unique, but in the case of this particular pairing, many father figures demonstrate similar patterns of behaviour. So what is this similarity caused by? Daughter investigates the result of societal expectations of men and the poisonous consequences of the pressure to protect and provide for their daughters. 

Daughter began its journey in Canada five years ago and has since toured internationally, finding its London home at the Battersea Arts Centre. Adam Lazarus takes on the role of both writer and performer, creating Daughter from the concerns he raised about the future facing his three year old daughter. The result? A glaringly grotesque account of a man grappling with his ominous role as ‘father’.  Although the script is not autobiographical, the whole creative team have drawn upon some home truths which resonate with many of us sat watching. It’s one of those rare scripts whose transparency inspires the same honest reflection in its audience. 

The audience is putty in Lazarus’ hands: he invites us to laugh and joke, which we do, before he suddenly drops a bombshell that inspires a sharp intake of breath followed by a deathly silence. Even though Lazarus has been performing Daughter for several years, his spontaneous energy leaves me wondering what percentage of the script is improvised. He is unrelenting in his delivery, he doesn’t shy away from any of the more gruesome content, unflinching as he lands each punch. Remarkably, Lazarus manages to present us with a creation whose monstrosity doesn’t make him entirely villainous, nor his comedy entirely redeemable; this character embodies a multitude of characteristics, presented to the audience for interpretation, free from authorial or creative bias. 

All performances of Daughter are relaxed, meaning that people are free to move and make noise. Relaxed performances allow theatres to be more inclusive and, for shows such as this, it makes allowances for people who may feel anxiety from Daughter’s dark themes. Interestingly, the setup aids the call and response form, making the audience active participants in this conversation, adding an ingenious dimension to the piece. 

This is a piece about fatherhood so, naturally, I took my mother. Her reaction is the food for thought I’d like to finish on; that every father knows all too well the misogyny their daughters will face, often because they themselves have contributed as such to the lives of the women around them. It’s a self-reflection that for many is unflattering. This play asks you to reflect nonetheless and although the answers are difficult and somewhat inconclusive, it’s important we ask anyway.   

Daughter is playing at Battersea Arts Centre until the 28th March. For more information and tickets, visit the Battersea Arts Centre website.