When Adam Lazarus first came up with the idea of Daughter, it started from a very singular and very real question about toxic masculinity.
That question was: ‘How do I raise my daughter in a world that is build to oppress and destroy women?’
Constructing a narrative around that question was the process that led to the creation of Mr Lazarus’ brutal and thought-provoking piece.
“I wanted to examine the process of how I’m complicit in the behaviour of oppression and the patriarchal nature of feeling a duty to protect her,” Mr Lazarus explained.
He added: “It’s a topic that it’s very important to tackle because there’s a lot of decoding that needs to be done in terms of what we consider okay and not okay, and what we consider sexist.
“It’s a problem with society, not just men, but we’re living in this great moment where we’re starting to break down the constructions of gender roles and we’re dealing with weird preconceptions of gender.
“If you go back even to my parent’s generation this would be different. The attitude used to be men are men and women are women and that’s that.
“But how do we do it? We need to call sexism out and address it and name it in all its forms, its banal and evil and terrifying forms.”
If Daughter’s message and themes are very clear, what’s interesting is the form that Mr Lazarus is working in.
His style is called bouffon, a style of satire that holds up a mirror to society and laughs at them, usually by portraying society’s most grotesque forms and getting them to laugh at it.
In this piece, Mr Lazarus has developed a subtler form of his work, which he hopes allows audiences to see the mirror more clearly.
He said: “I wanted to see if satire could be more piercing if the audience believed it was true.
“As an audience when we watch something that we know is a character, we can sit back and intellectualise it more, because it’s easier to digest information when we know someone is acting.
“So I remove the mask, I build a character that is less explicitly a character, and make it almost a stand-up, which creates a quality where you almost believe I’m confessing my truth.
“That makes the audience’s reaction a more visceral gut-punch.”
Ultimately, Lazarus’ style serves the subject matter and the point is to start a conversation about a topic that people don’t like to talk about.
He added: “I’m working with a level of complicity by seeing who in the room laughs at what joke. And by asking them why they find it funny, I can then start a conversation which we have afterwards.
“The idea that certain topics are not appropriate for public discussion? I don’t buy that. Difficult topics are difficult to talk about, but that’s why we should talk about them, not why we shouldn’t.
“Theatre needs to be difficult, it needs to have teeth because the world is difficult. The world hasn’t solved the problem of toxic masculinity so we want to shine a light on the problem, as it exists now.
“What happens is a complete fantasy, it’s a piece of art. Most people recognise that and some don’t, but it’s a good piece of art and I’m very proud of it.”
Daughter is playing at Battersea Arts Centre until March 28.
Tickets are available here and you can read SWL’s review of the play here.
Photo by John Lauener