Having spent a lifetime being an inspiration to others, queer, Crip (disabled) artist Dan Daw is finally seizing the moment to inspire himself. Teaming up with theatre director Mark Maughan (The Claim, Petrification), Dan takes ownership of the beautiful mess that encompasses all he is, letting go of who he once was to make room for who he wants to be. Joined in an intimate evening of play by performer and collaborator Christopher Owen (Joe Moran, Scottish Dance Theatre), watch as Dan takes back the power by being dominated on his own terms. “The Dan Daw Show looks at my relationship to my Cripness (or disability) and to kink,” he tells Sam Bennett, “and how power, pride and shame intersect, being a Crip in the world and being into kink. We’re using kink as a way to talk about how I want to be in the world,” he says, “it’s almost like coming out again, going, ‘I’m all these things and guess what? I’m also kinky.’ I kept this secret for years because of shame. It’s not until recently that I’ve found a way to be with my body that really nourishes me and makes me feel powerful.”

How did The Dan Daw Show become what it is?

We started out making a show interrogating inspiration, looking at the idea of ‘inspiration porn’, a term coined by the late Stella Young. Then as we went along, did some more research, more digging, more excavation of my trauma, there was a moment where I went, ‘hang on, it needs to be a work where I’m inspiring myself.’ The Dan Daw Show developed in response to that urgency to start engaging more politically with my disability, and kink serves as a perfect holding device to unpick my relationship to care, interdependence, and my internalised ableism.

Why is Christopher Owen’s role so significant?

Christopher Owen is sharing the stage with me. I use his non-disabled body to give me what I need. So, it’s essentially a dom-sub relationship. He’s my dom and I use him to give me what I need. Along the way I discover I’m giving him what he needs as well, that my disabled body can satisfy a non-disabled body.

Tell me about the show’s soundtrack.

The soundtrack was developed with Guy Connelly, who has been with us pretty much from the very beginning. We spent many hours having listening parties during lockdown with a massive Spotify list. We’d all make suggestions – ‘when I think of this scene, I think of this playing’ – and there’s music throughout the whole thing except for right at the end. It’s mostly drone style, also electronic, and very club-y – because in rehearsal I was talking about my experiences of going to dance clubs in Berlin and it being quite dark and sleazy, so we tried to get those gritty feelings in.

Growing up, did you see any theatre that you felt represented you?

 I grew up in the Outback, I’m from Whyalla in South Australia, five hours north-west of Adelaide. When I was 12, I joined a youth theatre company called D’faces at Youth Arts. In my first year, a company from Adelaide called Restless Dance Theatre came to Whyalla to perform one of their shows. Restless has disabled and non-disabled dancers and that was the moment I saw myself really represented on stage, the moment that planted the seed in terms of feeling like I could forge a career as a disabled artist. Seeing that show prompted me to go to drama school and train as an actor and dancer. Representation and seeing myself at that very young age was so important, and that’s my hope for the work I do: that somewhere a baby queer sees my work and goes, ‘wow, I want that for myself.’

Which other artists and writers are exciting you at the moment?

I really enjoy the work of Jo Bannon, an incredible artist/performance-maker, someone I’d love to collaborate with for sure. I’m reading a book of short essays and stories called Disability Visibility (Alice Wong, ed.), a beautiful anthology of experiences about Crips navigating the ableism and racism in the world.

The Dan Daw Show takes place at Battersea Arts Centre – why that venue?

 BAC has always been on my bucket list because of the quality of the work. They’re doing a lot in terms of how to make the audience and artist experience more inclusive. They’re really subverting that whole trope of, ‘oh, we can’t think about access because we’re a listed building and can’t possibly make changes because the architecture won’t allow it…’ BAC is making a stand, making sure there are relaxed performances and adapted performances. We had a meeting with them very early on and their planning and thought-process around the audience’s and our experience has been quite refreshing. I feel very well looked after by them and incredibly excited about bringing work there.

And I wish you all the best for the show, which you’re encouraging people to attend in fetish gear if they wish, right?

Come however you like to be dressed! We really encourage fetish gear, it’s a chance to come out into the world in your gear and celebrate who you are and what you’re into.

The Dan Daw Show is at Battersea Arts Centre 27 April-3 May. Tickets: Pay What You Can

https://bac.org.uk/

Photography by Hugo Glendinning

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