Review: Daddy Drag (Tron Glasgow)
If you look at the marketing for Daddy Drag, you will see a dapper-looking gentlelady in a tuxedo, with slicked-back hair, a neat stubble and a beer in hand. If you go to see Daddy Drag, you will be met with a very different image. Layla Josephine performs a beer-bellied dad with patchily shaved bear and jutting teeth, in a dressing gown and undies. You might not get what you were expecting, but with dads, we might not always get what we expect either.
Josephine’s appearance is not only purposefully scruffy but more importantly, it is also purposefully unconvincing. The same goes for the character she plays; a paper-thin caricature of Dad stereotypes, his repetitive mantras and one-liners resemble a badly-aged Austen Powers, with a couple of Trumpian mannerisms thrown in. It’s entertaining, but the blurred line between character and performer puts the audience on edge a little; you can’t trust the character to behave in a predictable, narrative-driven way, or the performer to be their authentic self.
It becomes clear this is not a celebration of Dad-isms at all, but a question about what lies behind them. There’s a malicious streak behind the larger-than-life character, creeping its way in on the back of inappropriate jokes and subtle threats. Daddy Drag is ultimately an act of differentiating between stereotypes and individuality, and between anger and grief. It’s a show whose meaning is embedded in its theatricality, for those who care to dissect it. For those who don’t, it’s difficult to say whether there is enough at surface level to be entertaining, or whether the post-dramatic disconnection is distracting.
What does begin to grate, however, it is read, is the pacing. After a wee introduction, the show opens with a funky spoken song of sorts, which, by Josephine’s (or her character’s) own admission, goes on longer than it needs to. That becomes a trend, nearly every scene stretches out just long enough to lose its novelty. Most striking is the final scene, in which Josephine de-drags, in an effort to show how impossible it is to reproduce a person with a versatile set and some bobby pins. It’s an important moment of closure, made all the more impactful by the Bob Dylan that plays in the background of it. The trouble is that by the time Dylan comes on, the message has already been made, the make-up already removed, and the moment passed. It holds the performance back but doesn’t hinder Josephine’s themes from flourishing. Three stars.