Theatre is by its nature manipulative. But in Daughter, written and performed by Adam Lazarus, such manipulation is not earned. Lazarus eases the audience first with jokes and familiarity so that he can later jolt with horror and discomfort. But in an effort to reveal an extreme example of toxic masculinity the show itself becomes abusive.
Lazarus (in character) is the father of a seven-year-old daughter. Pleasant and goofy, he demonstrates his daughter’s stiff dance moves to pop songs. But as he “nostalgically” reflects on her birth and his life before kids – teenage pranks, scatological childhood misbehaviour, love of pornography – he progressively confesses to more virulent behaviour soaked in misogyny.
He’s eager for validation from the audience who at first partake while he’s a befuddled, self-involved husband during his wife’s difficult childbirth. But that relatability dissipates as his acts escalate and he wants absolution for violence. Revelations are few, especially if you’ve personally encountered abuse.
Rather than validate experiences of men, women and children who have suffered at the hands of abusive, violent and manipulative men, theatrically it revels in our forced compliance. While it’s trying to point fingers at society at large, it does so by simply recreating the harm.