Come to Daddy is a little bit more than a play, in that I’m not entirely sure I can call it one. Visual Opera maybe? Brechtian Seminar? A yearbook for the coming century, in the form of a living art installation? All of these seem to capture some of the energy of Come to Daddy, but all fall equally short of the mark. The work opens with one actor talking directly to the audience in an ominously curt delivery, before other cast members take to the stage to reveal that, beneath the large sheet raised in the middle of the stage, another set of cast members are hidden in a foreboding tableau. It’s gripping. Really gripping.
The opening few minutes also include a spoken/sung round, with rich contrapuntal texture and harmonies. There’s also a choreographed dance number, a sequence using iPhone footage (that somehow wracks me with emotion despite my being a Samsung user) and a “mid-show discussion” in the style of a surreal panel show. It’s during this scene that I am witness to my favourite part of the piece — a man eating a Crunchie bar as a fellow cast member holds a sign reading Saturn Devouring his Son behind his head. The art history buffs among you will have some notion of how unnerving that was.
This well-read quality is perhaps the only way Come to Daddy might lose your attention. The trouble with theatre of such modernity is that not everyone knows Goya’s Frescos from memory, or indeed who Tadeusz Kantor is. Come to Daddy does stop to inform you though, in a scene that moves from lecturing to a kind of theatrical cult-worship that would be out of place if I didn’t know that I was watching students of a Theatre College. It can seem a little high-brow at times, butCome to Daddy holds your hand all the way through, guiding you through its labyrinthian intricacy every step of the way. It somehow feels like a very intimate piece despite the impressive size of the venue and sheer magnitude of its spectacle. Perhaps this complex relationship is befitting of a play ostensibly concerned with fatherhood though. There is a fourth wall, but it’s transparent and has holes in it so you can breathe. One or two cast members seemed a touch overwhelmed by the sensory madness of the piece, but their line fumbles were minimal and paled in comparison to the complexity of the work.
“This is not magic”— it makes for a memorable line. It’s a concise summation of what Come to Daddy is, too. The visual prowess is astounding, the incorporated technical elements are bold and carried off successfully. There’s a guy in a gorilla costume for God’s sake. But it’s not magic that makes Come to Daddy so strong. It’s a kind of theatre-science. Precise, well-executed science.
Rose Bruford are putting on Come to Daddy from the 7th-12th of August at 13:35 in Bruford at Summerhall, Fringe Venue 26. For fans of disorientating visuals, art history and surrealism, I recommend you go ahead and Come to Daddy.