Edinburgh Fringe 2012
"Dad Doesn’t Dance” is a one woman show, written and performed by the dancer Nora Brown. As the story unfolds, she meets the seedier elements of life, and challenges herself to face up to her fears in an attempt to find her biological father and discover her true identity. It’s a moody theatrical piece in which the dancer utilises her body’s ability to create a jagged ethereal quality that alludes to classic film noir and pulp fiction.
The dimly lit black set reveals only a solitary chair. Our heroine enters from the back of the auditorium, sliding and twisting, stopping frequently in frozen angular shapes. Clad in an androgynous black tailored suit, she finally settles centre stage and opens her mouth to reveal that she has always suspected the father she grew up with was not her, “BioDad”.
She describes a quiet evening in her apartment, her children settled in bed, where she witnesses an apparition of her true father. She becomes overwhelmed with the desire to have long unanswered questions solved. She calls her sister and badgers her to give up family secrets that she has always known her sister kept. Worn down, the sister reveals smatterings of info that are enough to send Nora on an investigative trail. She has his possible occupation and name, together with a time and place where his path may have crossed her mother’s. Her first stop is a seedy motel. The motel owner is initially eager to rent her a room but, at the mention of her possible father’s name, the owner becomes non-committal and sends her packing. It’s enough to whet her appetite. Continuing her search, she uncovers more pieces of the jigsaw until success appears imminent…
Armed with a telephone number, she calls to hear his voice. At first concealing her true identity, she baits him by pretending to be researching his time as a touring musician. Eventually she blurts out her true intentions, but he denies all knowledge and declines to be involved. She decides that she doesn’t have what it takes to confront this man, and that what she needs is a private detective – someone who can confirm her suspicions. The detective has some surprising news for her. In addition, Nora must gain enough courage to meet the man she believes to be the real other 50% of her and, after a provocative and insightful meeting with an ex-boyfriend, she finally manages to answer the questions she’s carried all her life.
This is a piece that has matured like dark chocolate or a good red wine. The audience – along with Nora – must make sense of the mystery that is one’s identity. On this sparse set, the lighting is expressive and emotive. Dark shadows loom around the small stage, cresting pockets of mystery that punctuate the moments of discovery in the dialogue. The drama is accompanied by a heavy lidded and sultry blue note jazz soundtrack, emphasising her every undulation. Brown speaks slowly and seductively to the audience, adding enigmatic movements that cadenza gracefully a la femme fatale. She spins effortlessly balletic and then comes to rest at one point, executing a perfect tango. She contorts her face and allows her mouth to droop to one side; her voice deepens in her slight chest, and she becomes one of the many male characters. Her dainty elegance is duplicitous and no more so than when she stretches her body to its full length, leaning at improbable angles and barking out the profanities of a middle aged man, jabbing the script into your ears.
Brown appears so engrossed in her character and her tale that she doesn’t miss a beat. I thought it was beautiful.