A giant orange square with matching orange curtain. Six, maybe five, huge bouncing balls. Haze fuming from the ceiling and then there’s this conjoined … chicken … thing. Welcome to the “Meadowdrome”, the fantastic escapist world of Frauke Requardt & Daniel Oliver, brought back in time from a post-neurodivergent revolution family fun-time future. Daniel is dyspraxic, Frauke has ADHD. They are married and have kids – and DADDERS is a show about it. It starts out sort of like a boxing match, then everyone dances, then they recreate their first date, then at some point there’s a manifesto, then there’s Lego everywhere, and then a family sing-song, and then the lights relax – and the audience and performers play in the space. That’s a vague list of the things that happen, in the sort of (dis)order in which they do. Yet there’s more to it than that – and within a space that’s chaotic, confusing, and uncertain, emerges a piece of work that’s playful, fun to be at, and easy to be a part of (if you want to).
At the core of DADDERS is a story about two people who met and started a family together. The narrative of this story is something that they deliberately fail to tell. Restaging of the first date, for example, is led awry by Daniel’s storytelling, which overcomplicates itself and gets stuck, then falsifies what happened. However, away from the narrative, the ‘story’ of their relationship (and individual ways of being) is tangible, easy to feel. It doesn’t necessarily matter that elements of DADDERS make no sense to me, what’s pleasurable is to see the sense (or agreed non-sense) they make to Frauke and Daniel. It’s difficult to put my finger on it – but their dynamic is highly observable, punctuated with shared smiles and hesitations. DADDERS is, in part, a story about intimacy – which doesn’t need a narrative arc.
Much of DADDERS is participatory. The audience stand (seats are available), are encouraged to dance, sing, interact with objects and play. I find this sort of thing terrifying, but I’m soon involved, gently shuffling across the space in a lazy Hawaiian aloha tribute – and then it’s considerably less scary. There’s an honesty and directness with which Daniel and Frauke lead the room that’s refreshing, which doesn’t overburden itself with notions of a particular kind of care. During the work, Frauke opines about ‘shame’ and its importance as a supported feeling within social relations, which if left unfelt becomes self-shame or shamelessness. This thinking seems to play out in moments of participation as sometimes volunteers look embarrassed, awkward, wishing to be somewhere else. Rather than being painfully awkward, these moments are simply held as being awkward, which I found quite liberating.
At one point during DADDERS, while I’m trying to look at Frauke walking on Lego, I am hit in the face by a giant bouncing balloon. The presence of these balls, and this particular moment exemplifies the commitment to neurodivergent expression of DADDERS is realised at a dramaturgical level. The six balls in question are incredibly distracting – they’re huge, they’re bouncy, they’re unpredictable, they’re destructive and they’re going to require constant attention or you’re going to get hit in the face. Their presence interferes with my ability to engage with the work as I typically would. I can’t focus on one thing. This is really pleasurable, although a little confusing to get used to. In moments such as this, DADDERS affords its audiences an affective understanding of how neurodivergent thinking might be experienced, both its challenges and pleasures.
It’s tempting to describe the ways of moving, thinking, being, speaking within that these two artists have created with words like “strange”, “odd” or “quirky”. Indeed, this sort of language might help sell it to audiences. But such language also feels pretty crappy, lazy, off the mark – and may well re-trap these qualities of the work within the normative frame of what’s expected, good, right. Better then perhaps to say that DADDERS is too advanced for our lexicon, brought back from a future which the present doesn’t have language for. DADDERS is DADDERS, and so on.
Except that there is that conjoined chicken thing I mentioned. I still don’t understand it. Dear Frauke and Daniel, why the chicken thing? Nevertheless the costume, by Charlotte Austen, is amazing.
Dadders was on at Tramway as part of Dance International Glasgow, and tours to The Place, London in November. More info here.