FringeReview Scotland 2020
We are introduced to dad, through a voiceover recorded between mum and daughter, before he appears. Upon his arrival, the first part of the show begins where we are treated to a number of set pieces from the daddy rap, going fishing, a wedding, the BBQ and then the final day of his life. Throughout we have the voiceover of daughter and mother describing events mixed from those of genuine affection and love to where dad’s behaviour was less than wholesome. Interacting with the voiceover, Leyla Josephine, playing her father does so with all the well-worn clichés of the male of a certain age and uncertain provenance, of all the dads we never had the whole of but of which we can clearly recognise.
Leyla Josephine has a knack for comedy and uses it to sparkling effect in Daddy Drag. We get the whole cringing awfulness throughout the first part of daddy Drag, as well as the comforting love of a man who feels he has a role to fulfil. It is a performance that has the audience from the beginning very much in the moment with her. She manages to keep them with her throughout and that is very much to her credit.
The direction leaves nothing to the imagination and that is by design. We have a broad brush stroke of a man that has grey underpants and awful jokes on tap. The repetition of many oft heard phrases gives credence to the portrayal of a masculinity that ought to be bereft of a place but still has its conceit of itself.
The first half is certainly played for laughs with the rap getting lots of positive audience response, the interaction with the audience when they had gone fishing being an appealing way of getting the embarrassment over the footlights and the wedding marking a bit of a change. From here there is a marked change with the B-B-Q where the fun turns awkward and almost sinister.
It is at this point that I began to struggle as I felt the revelation of the bag found with women’s clothes made for a man juxtaposed with the behaviour at the barbeque that was very “inappropriate” alongside the voiceover telling us of his bad temper odd. It appeared to hang each of these revelations in the air, not reference them fully again nor explore them to a conclusion. Whilst I was not necessarily gasping to know more, I was left feeling uncertain that having both together in close proximity truly opened my eyes to the issues with which he may have struggled.
That having been said, from there the solemnity with which the death was greeted was judged well. I just wanted to have a whole picture and felt that I was faced with a clichéd beginning and then an unsatisfactory end; but then I really liked it.
Technically the long drawn out removal of make up was not great theatre though the innovate set design was a marvel. Lighting was on song, the soundscape perfectly fitted the kitsch of dad dancing and the atmosphere in the stage management in the Counting House was a perfect fit for the piece.
This was a performer with absolute faith in her material and that should be fully applauded and supported. I felt that she was challenging us in ways that advanced her cause and the idea of performance as homage in an honest way had much more to give. It made me convinced that this was one exercise well worth repeating but one that, with a small tweak or two could tell us more and even open up more debate in a fearless manner.