We are welcomed into a pink lit, fairy floss wonderland. Joel Bray is front and centre, our perfect Adonis, lying on a pink cloud, wearing only gold swimmers. Smoke fills the room and as the music begins to play he repositions himself seductively into pose after pose to ensure that the audience sees him. All of him. Some attendees don’t know where to look, others drink it all in.
As the tension starts to build, Joel quickly breaks it by inviting members of the audience to help him create fantasy images of himself. Charming, cheeky, ever the flirt, he readily engages us into helping him create images of himself to be adored, loved, and worshipped. He wants our love, he craves it, needs it even. For in Daddy, performance is Joel’s therapy and we are the witnesses to his process to explore and understand his many selves.
Daddy is the second solo work of Joel Bray’s to debut at the Brisbane festival. In Daddy, Joel Bray is as flirtatious as ever, but there’s a darker, more urgent edge to it than his previous work, Biladurang.
Daddy at its most literal refers to Joel’s challenging relationship with his father and his need for father figures in his life. For comfort, leadership, even dominance, and for someone to teach him about and connect him to his cultural heritage. Joel is a proud Wiradjuri man, but his father never imparted upon him the language, culture and dance of his people. He shows his urgent need to connect to it in whatever ways he can and how this continues to be denied to him in so many ways.
But this is only one of the issues that Joel explores in Daddy, as he is searching for much more than this. He is searching for connection, intimacy, passion, adoration and peace. And in his journey, he will take us through many sugary excesses that he hopes will sate the hunger in his soul.
Through a number of vignettes, Joel explores the excesses of clubbing, queer male identity, and hook-up culture to name a few through a mixture of contemporary dance, monologues and audience interaction. The focus remains on his struggles to connect with his Aboriginal heritage, which has been and continues to be consistently denied
Joel is a master of charming and working a crowd, but we are never allowed to get comfortable in Daddy. Presented promenade style, Joel weaves and dances around and through us and speaks to us directly throughout. We learn some sure-fire ways to dance our ways into the hearts of a crash in the club and one audience member gets more intimacy than he may have ever hoped for. He invites us to get involved and it’s always clear that we can opt out, but this may not be the show for you if you prefer to enjoy live theatre separated from the performer in the comfort of your seat.
Joel’s movement quality is particularly exquisite, and it is through his body that we see some of the rawest parts of himself, so raw that I felt I had to look away at times. His movements often speak more than the monologues. Speaking to the audience, he allows us into his world, but a few of the monologues come off overly scripted, a little preachy, and don’t carry his voice. If I could change anything, I would ask Joel to include more of dance, as this pieces in the show carry some of the most true and impactful moments.
In Daddy Joel Bray once again takes us on a journey into the depths of his soul and his craving to find his true self as a queer Aboriginal man. Daddy is deeply personal work from a multi-skilled performer with a unique voice in Australia. At times harrowing, hilarious, charming and challenging, it is bound up in a sugary sweet excess that will make you crave his next serving.
Ads J saw Daddy on 25 September as a part of the 2019 Brisbane Festival. Daddy plays at the Theatre Republic until 28 September.
Creator, Choreographer, Performer | Joel Bray
Composition and Sound Design | Naretha Williams
Lighting Design | Katie Sfetkidis
Set and Costume Design | James Lew
Collaborating Director | Stephen Nicolazzo
Collaborating Choreographer | Niharika Senapati
Dramaturgy | SJ Norman
Audio Technical Support | Daniel Nixon
Lighting Associate | Nicholas Moloney
Piano | Niv Marinberg
Voices | Josh Price and Jason Tamiru
Technical & Stage Manager | Cecily Rabey
Producer | Josh Wright