I was fortunate enough to secure a seat at the final performance of The Dan Daw Show at Battersea Arts Centre this week, and I wasn’t disappointed. For the full run the show has been designed with audience care in mind; meaning the performance is captioned and relaxed. There is also a long list of triggers highlighted to you as you enter the performance space, these include; Kink experience, sexually explicit depictions, the reaching of physical limits, bright and/or flashing lights, blackouts, tattoos, swearing, loud sounds along with my personal favourite, sexy disabled people.
The show sits in the intersection of theatre and dance with Dan Daw returning to the stage and exploring his relationship with disability (he self identifies as a Queer, Male 38-year-old Crip) and Kink (read BDSM, Power Play and Latex) along with the power dynamics and feelings of shame, vulnerability and acceptance that are all intertwined.
The piece can generally be broken into three sections: Introduction – Dan enters the performance space (to loud cheers and applause from the audience) he carefully introduces the show, explains the set-up, checks that we are okay, reinforces that it is a relaxed performance so we can move around, tick or leave if we want to. Dan takes care to show us how the sound and light work and makes it explicitly clear that he consents, that this show is designed to show Dan how he wants to be perceived. Dan is in control at all times. He shares his safe word with us, Spoons! He wants his audience to also always feel safe, we trust him as he trusts his performance partner and dominator Christopher Own, ‘KrisX’.
The main bulk of the performance is a dance between KrisX and Dan, we observe their power play, see how through full submission to KrisX, Dan is in control. What follows is a physical performance where we see the push and pull, twist, and turn of two very masculine bodies. Dan’s limits are pushed, which at times I found uncomfortable to watch, others in the audience may have found this erotic, sexy and been turned on. If latex play is your fetish, you may have loved watching Dan encased in a latex box, air sucked out by a hoover and his body displayed for all to see whilst his breathing was compromised (I heard a couple behind me say they would love to try that).
Whatever our personal experience we are constantly reminded Dan wants us to see him like this, Dan is a sexual male, he is most free and joyous when he can be dominated. We learn that his limits aren’t defined by his physical disability. The term ‘beautiful trauma’ springs to mind when describing their movement on stage. There is trust. Interdependence and partnership on stage is evident with Dan’s limits being explored and tested. The sarcasm in KrisX’s statement, “Oh Dan, you are such an inspiration,” is not lost on the audience as we laugh with them both as they lay spent on the floor, full of joy.
The final part is short in length and hugely effective. Dan is dressed by Chris and his tattooed body manifests in front of us, Dan’s protective armour is there for all to see, he is proud, unapologetic, and joyous. At this point the audience started to cheer and whoop, I shed a tear or three and found myself, along with the whole audience, giving Dan a standing ovation. The climax of the piece belongs to the audience as well as Dan.
For some this show would sit more comfortably a few miles down the road in Vauxhall’s HOIST, however, I feel this piece of physical theatre is important, sexuality is not exclusive to non-disabled people and Dan’s work is important and takes you on a journey regardless of your sexual preference. Through Dan’s vulnerability comes acceptance and with acceptance comes growth. All in all, I want to see more work by Dan and look forward to his next show.
Review by Faye Stockley
The Dan Daw Show is a peep into the shiny and sweaty push-pull of living with shame while bursting with pride. This is a show about care, intimacy and resilience, letting go and reclaiming yourself.
THE DAN DAW SHOW
27 Apr – 3 May 2022