Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“If someone you knew committed an unspeakable crime, did you ever really know them at all? In 2013, an 18-year-old boy was imprisoned for the possession of over 50,000 indecent images of children. Daniel follows those left behind through a combination of devising and new writing, exploring the unheard stories of his friends and family who are forced to deal with the aftermath.”
Child abuse is universally abhorred, whether physically or by the implied abuse which the viewing of indecent images implies – but how should we react to it? How should we deal with it? How should we assess it? How should we punish it? And so many other questions. Since Jimmy Saville it’s been one of the issues of the day, and clearly we’re still feeling our way in our response to it. Yes, of course we all abhor child abuse, but is ‘abuse’ always abuse? What is a ‘child’? Do we give way to knee-jerk hysteria when those two words are mentioned, or are we going to step back a pace and come up with a just and yet understanding approach? The “Daniel” Company have done a very good job indeed in exploring these issues, presenting both sides of the argument very fairly.
The Company have been working on this project for 18 months and they are still exploring aspects of the issues involved, but the devised piece they have put together so far is no holes barred exploration in which emotions run high.
The argument of what to do about child abuse, like most issues in life, is on a sliding scale: ” Cut his balls off!” the solution at one extreme is clearly not the answer in a Country which calls itself ‘civilised’ and “Do nothing” is similarly out of the question at the other: but there’s a good deal of discussion needed in between: ‘Daniel’ begins that discussion, and there’s a lot more to be said. For a start how do we define ‘abuse’ and how do we define ‘child’?
The situation this most sincere and naturalistic cast ( Eve Cowley, Immie Davies, Matilda Reith, Jack Solloway and Isaac Whiting) face is that of a friend they all thought they knew well who is sent to prison for having downloaded 50,000 images of child abuse. Under the correctly unsensational direction of Elin Schofield the reactions of these friends are presented fairly – some extreme, some more considered. Dramaturg Matilda Reith though not afraid to let passions explode from time to time, nevertheless keeps a good balance in the argument. It is all very naturalistic, and the effect is all the more affecting through its reality, but at times the Cast need to watch audibility: not a word in the significant dialogue needs to be missed.
The arguments about our reactions and what should be done are of course exactly the same whether the object of the allegations is a dear friend or just a name in the Newspaper. An important question not discussed in ‘Daniel’ is whether people who make allegations should not also have their names quoted in the Media – or probably neither party until Charges have been made: at present only those against whom allegations are made that are released, already ruining them before they even get to Court,while it any spiteful person can say what they like and remain in total anonymity. Handy for the police to whip up other evidence and strengthen their case against the Accused, and an encouragement for other potential Victims to come forward – but is this situation Just? Needs serious discussion. Compassion, understanding and common sense is often in short supply when these situations are faced, and vengeance, bias and prejudice, child of ignorance, take over. This is not to condone but ensure that mercy and true justice is done.
Rape of the innocent is deplorable and there is no one who would deny that – though recent cases have revealed most shockingly that there are people in our society who wilfully do just that and clearly must be brought to justice: but in all honesty, is a ‘pass’, a pat on the bum or an even more intimate part, seriously an ‘abuse’? Many parents bathe their children – should children book their parents? And a ‘pass’ between adults? Surely an adult is capable of saying NO without calling the police! The pendulum has swung so far towards suspecting everyone over 25 having evil intentions that adults are now afraid to even take a photograph of a view of Primrose Hill if a child inadvertently runs in front of the lense!
While ‘Daniel’ is an excellent theatrical offering just as it stands, it seemed to your reviewer that it could be the blueprint for a really important play about the attitudes of Britain towards Sex in its widest context. Isn’t it about time our lovely but stuffy little island sorted itself out about sex? Of course Child Abuse is an abhorrence, but is Prostitution always bad? Is it always ‘slavery’? Clearly girls of 12 shouldn’t be having babies for lots of good reasons (do they know enough about the world to bring up a child? Have they the economic Strength to support a family? Are their bodies yet strong enough to give birth to babies? etc similar arguments apply to boys too but, lets face reality some have already committed murder or fathered a child at 10! ). The Young are becoming older by the minute and Al Capone should have taught the Law that Prohibition produces great evils.
Homophobia, Age of Consent, Voluntary Prostitution and Punishment that is Proportionate: Footprint Theatre may not want to expand their excellent piece, Daniel, to a full grown-up discussion of Sex in Britain, a discussion led with determination by our Leaders in Parliament who make the Laws but seem to have forgotten what ‘leadership’ is in the desperate search for Votes. The sad case of Daniel could be an ideal moment to widen the debate: well done Footprint for presenting and Zoo for spotting and giving ‘house-room’to a performance which truly is ( or should be) what the Fringe is all about: taking subjects and styles of performance that Commercial theatre wouldn’t risk: challenging the status quo!Well done FootprintTheatre – and Zoo for opening the door to ‘true’ Fringe!