The Beast is female and male, and it is neither. It is human and not. It both succeeds and fails; it is elegant and clumsy; strong and weak; powerful and vulnerable, sexual and asexual.
Dan Daw’s work is confronting. And Beast , currently at the Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival, will dare your notions of theatre and dance. His performance engages with notions of otherness. Naked, the body wars with the mind. This is not just a condition for the so-called disabled; the war between mind and body does and will affect all of us.
Daw’s performance proves that dancers indeed, are capable of physical feats which make the rest of us wonder if our own bodies even contain the same muscles. I love the sense of wonder which comes with viewing dance; the understanding that self-discipline and focus take us to unimagined places and spaces.
In our politically correct world, too often people politely avert their eyes from the different. Or adopt a twee tone. Difference is not contagious nor does it need patronising. And in any case – different to what? What, after all, is normal? If you are uncomfortable with any sort of difference, you are going to be even more so with Daw’s work.
What I found interesting in the performance was the audience’s behaviour. Almost overwhelmed, fully appreciative but unwilling to express anything which may be misinterpreted as dis-respectful, they seemed to miss some of the whimsical elements of the performance. Dan Daw does not only explore deviating functionality with studied intensity he also does have moments of self-deprecation. As a performance artist, he understands that work needs variety in pace and tone; an audience needs to honour that by engaging with him accordingly.
Until society eliminates the concept of other/normal entirely and our self-congratulatory discomfort is regulated to the past, Dan Daw needs to go on challenging our concepts and expectations. That may be a while. Dan Daw has set himself a social/political challenge greater than the physical.
Kate Stratford: Theatre Now & On The Town
PREVIEW: 16 JANUARY AT 7.30PM
17 JANUARY AT 7PM
18 JANUARY AT 8.30PM
19 JANUARY AT 9.30PM