EFR - Reviews of Daniel

Daniel

Fri 5th – Sun 14th August 2016

reviews

Ed Grimble

at 01:52 on 8th Aug 2016

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If someone you thought you knew was revealed to have committed a terrible crime, to what extent would you be forced to question the strength and credibility of that relationship? Footprint Theatre’s ‘Daniel’ confronts this moral dilemma through the titular (but never present) character’s arrest, following the discovery of a vast horde of images of child pornography on his laptop. Assessing the impact of the events upon Daniel's friends and family, this show is a triumph.

The audience sit around a thrust stage space, which is empty save for a single microphone on a stand. This opening is another example of how dramatically effective silence and absence can be. As mentioned, the recently incarcerated Daniel never materialises, nor do we hear his voice. This is a play that steers attention towards those who are the collateral damage in such an awful set of circumstances: the friends who are forced to choose between fellowship and ethics, or the mother who must live with the label of having a son who is now a convicted paedophile. Conviction and sentencing can never be called total closure; the dark tendrils of these terrible events are far reaching indeed.

The characters begin the play sat amongst the audience, having queued incognito and traipsed in alongside. It is a small gesture, but one that creates the omnipresent feeling that these are the sorts of things that could happen to anyone. There is a sense that, although of course the same four actors will say the same lines each day of the performance, anyone sitting in those seats could have piped up. The show is staged in such a way as to level out and rebalance the hierarchical relationship between those on the stage, occupying the performance space, and those sat mutely in the dark.

'Daniel'’s writing, alongside its staging, also commits wholeheartedly to the pursuit of verisimilitude. The dialogue between the characters, as well as their own monologues, is perfect in its naturalism. Umming and ahhing builds an illusion of spontaneity, and there is a pervading sense of tenderness and delicacy, as if we are hearing the secret thoughts and feelings of these people, told only to the closest confidants.

‘Daniel’ is a prismatic play, and across the fifty minute devised performance, Footprint Theatre succeed in deconstructing this truly awful episode and drawing attention to its ethical, judicial, and psychological ramifications in turn. It is by necessity a play without resolution or conclusion; being concerned with questions where there are no straightforward answers- ‘Daniel’ is a rewarding challenge.

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Isobel Roser

at 09:11 on 8th Aug 2016

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‘Daniel’, a production devised by the Sheffield based company Footprint Theatre, proves an incredibly powerful and thought-provoking watch at Zoo. True events, stories and voices have helped to create a deeply engrossing piece of theatre, centred on the 2013 conviction of teenager Daniel for the possession of indecent images of children. The focus is shifted to those who typically remain in the shadows; the friends and family of the criminal in question. Not an easy show to watch, but perhaps a necessary one, ‘Daniel’ takes its audience to the extremes of emotional torment, as the characters grapple with difficult questions.

‘Daniel’ is not your run-of-the-mill play. By taking seats among the audience, the actors are afforded some level of anonymity before the show has even begun. Sporting casual attire and using a stripped-back stage set, we receive confirmation that the production will be grounded in a gritty reality. There is a sense that we are being let in on secrets and are privy to the complicated internal monologue of our characters. This immersive relationship between the cast and audience is refreshingly different, whilst remaining faithful to the reality behind the production.

The play offers a close insight into the emotions that are consuming our characters. ‘Harry’ appears in a state of denial at first and is quick to defend his friend. Angry and confused, he lashes out at anyone trying to reason with him. ‘Emma’ has strong feelings of guilt, ‘Ellie’ feels for the victims, while ‘Alex’ considers how these revelations will impact upon him.

The cast keep their characters firmly grounded in reality, speaking as if they were reciting their feelings to a close personal confidant. The performers use the stage well, utilising movement and stance to pinpoint their emotions in a physical form. Moreover, pre-recorded voicemail messages from ‘Harry’ to ‘Daniel’ help to punctuate the stages of his emotional turmoil. Reduced lighting sets a dark tone during the dramatic third-person narrative of Daniel’s mother, which is performed in turn by each of the cast members. A particularly harrowing moment recalls the mother’s response to seeing ‘her boy’ at his trial; surely an unimaginable situation for any parent.

As a distant bystander it is easy to pour scorn on those who commit crimes against children, the emotions of anger and rage flow easily. But how would you react when knowing that the person sitting in the courtroom is your oldest friend, or a close family member? ‘Daniel’ provides a lens through which to view this impossible situation, allowing us to witness emotional extremes and consider an alternative perspective. A truly arresting piece of theatre, ‘Daniel’ will stay with you long after the show has ended.

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