Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: The Dan Daw Show
Christopher Owen and Dan Daw in The Dan Daw Show. Image by Shannyn Higgins
The Dan Daw Show. Because Dan Daw is the show. Or rather, Dan Daw is on show. The 39-year-old Crip (his words), looking to get fucked (again, his words). Negotiating our body beautiful world with his beautiful mess of a body. Along with performer and collaborator Christopher Owens, Daw takes us on an unapologetic, honest journey into kink, S&M and bondage. Seeking a sense of release, along with the freedom to fully express his desires and himself.
Daw never talks about his disability, it’s just a fact he deals with and celebrates. Still, it might be tempting to think The Dan Daw Show is just about the body; Daw’s upper body and arms tattooed like a Yakuza assassin. But the body is just Daw's means with which to express and experience. Something he’s not always comfortable in. His tattoos armour for when he's out in the real world. Dropped in this intimate act of submission. But don’t be fooled. The dominant is never the one in control. Throughout, Owens might give the instructions, but Daw has the power. The power to set everything up in the first place, to withdraw consent, to utter the safe word as Owen pushes, prods and pokes Daw’s body. To describe it would be to dilute it, The Dan Daw Show best encountered without preconceptions. Even then, it’s likely to be nothing like you’d expect. Nazi dominatrix abusing men cowering in gimp masks? Guess again.
Dan Daw and Christopher Owen in The Dan Daw Show. Image by Shannyn Higgins
The tacky set with its red curtains and flashing lights, coupled with an excellent sound design, might suggest a sex club in Amsterdam’s red-light district. Even as the show might seem to suggest what people with disabilities will undergo to make physical and sexual connections. Both missing the point. Which lies in the playful humour, the patient consent, the air between Daw and Owen charged with an emotional eroticism fuelled by longing, trust and love. Kink informed by kindness not depravity; Daw’s deepest vulnerabilities made safe in a trusting relationship.
If the limits of our lust are the limits of our vertigo (in Daw’s case), the limits of our looking are conventionally determined. Even though it leans into transgressing those limits, The Dan Daw Show never topples from theatre into sex show. Leaving a sense of all foreplay and no finish. Foreplay as an end in itself. Nice idea, but even Daw’s wouldn't settle for that in real life. As for the audience, The Dan Daw Show makes voyeurs of us all. Voyeurs with a role to play. Our presence an act of participation in making public what is deeply private. Made safe by an all consuming and abiding trust. In a relationship fashioned from care and surrender. And there is nothing hotter or more beautiful than that.
You may not like all you’ll see, which is why the final image rings as both beautiful and bittersweet. Still, The Dan Daw Show is joy as resistance. Proving that resistance isn’t futile after all. Rather it’s beautiful, sexy, and wildly tender. No matter what your kink, whether bi, gay, straight, or whatever you're having yourself, The Dan Daw Show is well worth your time. A moving piece of dance theatre, The Dan Daw Show is arguably the hottest show in town.
The Dan Daw Show runs at Project Arts Centre until Sept 23 as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2023.