I’ve been to a few of the Wild Card events at the Lilian Baylis Studio and each time has been very different. If you haven’t read a Wild Card review and are wondering what exactly I’m discussing then Wild Card is Sadler’s Wells initiative which gives an audience a chance to see work by a new generation of dance makers curating a series of special evenings. The latest evening has been curated by Dan Daw and is quite a complex one.
The curated evening consisted of two rather long major pieces in the main studio and started with Graham Adey and Karen Rosenberg’s Gender F*ck(er). This was an odd piece that set out to question roles and perceptions of the male looking onto a female. It started very slowly with Karen, dressed in black and partially illuminated appearing to consist of a disconnected head and hands moving slowly across her body. While the effect was interesting at first, it did take a long time for not a lot to happen and, to be honest, it was very reminiscent of the opening of Maurice Béjart’s version of Boléro – which I have to say did the effect more effectively. Things moved on with Gender F*ck(er) as a sort of story was played out given two perspectives – both male and female – at once. This was at times interesting and at others rather frustrating to watch. For example, there was a point where Karen was asking the question ‘How do you like me now?’ which seemed to go on for a while then culminated in just the word “now” being repeated as Karen thrust frenziedly on the stage. However, at times as she thrust, it sounded as if the words changed to “no” and discussing it during the interval, it felt to me as if Karen was being both the male and fluid character in a story of a rather wild non-consensual sexual encounter. All told, while this piece was interesting, it did feel that it went on for a bit too long with not a lot happening
After a twenty-five minute interval, we were back in the studio which had been transformed into a line drawing of a house, complete with a three-dimensional doorway for the main part of the evening Dan Daw’s On One Condition. Dan’s show, conceived, directed and choreographed by Graham Adey, forces an audience to examine the way they view Dan, a disabled man who knows no limitations and has forged a highly successful international career. For this production, Dan first appears in just his underwear and proceeds to get dressed. This takes a while and really highlights how awful it must be to have a body that doesn’t let you do things the more able-bodied take for granted. There are other examples of this during the performance. Watching, I felt a variety of emotions. Initially, there was a sense of futility that I, or somebody else, didn’t run down to the stage and assist Dan. Then, as a scene went on, I felt a sense of guilt that I and the rest of the audience were voyeuristically watching this man suffer as a form of entertainment. And finally, there was a real sense of pride – on my part completely undeserved – when Dan completed the task he had set himself. Part of this due to the obvious physical effort that Dan puts in, but there is also the fact that he is a really personable chap, with quite a wicked smile, and a wonderfully self-deprecating manner in the way he interacts with the audience as he tells us stories – both positive and negative of his experiences as a disabled man in the modern world.
All told, this was an interesting and frustrating Wild Card presentation. While both pieces had a certain amount of merit, both felt way too long (50 mins and 65 mins) which when coupled with an 8.00pm start time made for a very long night. Whilst I found On One Condition engaged me, I’m afraid that Gender F*ck(er) didn’t really do much for me except leave me with that horrible feeling of having missed something. The Wild Card evenings are a great way to challenge traditional views of dance and performance art and the chances that every production will work every time for every audience is really limited. I’m afraid that, for me, this was the one that just failed to hit the spot.
Review by Terry Eastham
Dan Daw is interested in collaboration and the potential for dance to transcend expectations, and proposes that both ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are equally fascinating. Alongside other artists, Daw performs ON ONE CONDITION, a stripped back, affecting solo made in collaboration with Graham Adey, taking audiences on a whirlwind journey through struggle, belonging, comfort, need and home.
Growing up in rural South Australia, Dan Daw first set foot on the stage when he was 12 and has gone on to forge an international career. Now 33, Dan takes time to reflect on the rollercoaster ride that has led him to ON ONE CONDITION. Drawing on stories from lived experiences, this production asks us to question our own perceptions of ‘normal’ while offering a bare bones, stripped back look at the world we live in. The audience is invited into Dan’s childhood home and on a journey overseas to share in one man’s undying search for perfection, as he attempts to hold the world on his shoulders in all its beauty and grotesqueness. ON ONE CONDITION performs at the Adelaide Fringe in March.
The programme also includes the UK Premiere of Graham Adey and Keren Rosenberg’s Gender Fuck[er], and a durational performance pre-show and during the interval in The Kahn space at Sadler’s Wells, which is presented with Hannah Buckley and Lucy Suggate.
Wild Card: Dan Daw
Lilian Baylis Studio, EC1R
Thursday 30 & Friday 31 March at 8pm
Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com