Review: Scary monsters? Super creeps?

21 March 2016

by Meg Osborne

Footprint Theatre’s production of Daniel is a bold new play with a dark theme. The four actors bravely and deftly tackled the issue of whether it's sexual preferences, or merely thoughts, that define who we are as human beings.

Effective staging ensured that audience members felt implicated in the questions raised by the show, and it created an intimate, almost confessional atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed the changes in tone between the documentary-style witness reports and the frantic, overblown rhetoric of the tabloids. This shift was conveyed through the use of more rapid movement to convey the flurry of the mass media. The play demands that the audience question the validity of newspaper reports, statistics and stereotypes surrounding paedophilia, something that the four actors conveyed brilliantly. The use of minute details about Daniel’s character, such as his Talking Heads record left at a mate’s house, and his predeliction for Skittles, served to complicate a straightforward image of him as a "monster". Jack Solloway was believable, sharp and funny in his role as Daniel’s best friend, puncturing the media bubble with his down-to-earth style of speech. I also enjoyed the portrait of Daniel’s mother desperately trying to continue with her everyday reality, which was sensitively rendered by Eve Cowley. The use of soundbites throughout the play was highly effective, and Daniel’s lingering final words left a chill in the atmosphere.

However, in terms of the play’s structure, I felt a clearer direction or climax was needed, although what that climax might be I’m not exactly sure. The play also felt a little one-dimensional at times, and I was left wondering what each character’s testimony might reveal about their own psyche. For instance, Katie’s conflict between the desire to conform, and the instinct that "normality" does not equate to moral goodness, is something that I felt could have been further developed. It would have been interesting to gain more of an insight into the effects of Daniel’s actions on friends and family, beyond the hostility towards Daniel’s mother and the scandal surrounding the Petersons.

Nevertheless, I must commend these actors and their production team for grappling with such a difficult issue, which they did with sincerity and poise. They have the potential to create something truly moving and thought-provoking with this show, and I wish them every success for future performances.

Photo credit: Giulia Delprato