Review: The D Word, VAULT Festival

The D Word proves a bit of a disappointment for me, a first at this year’s VAULT Festival

“I’m a modern man: I eat hummus and suck cock”

There’s something a bit awkward about reading that a play is deeply autobiographical after not having really believed it. So I should probably apologise in advance to Jordan Waller. His story certainly is remarkable – a gay man born of lesbian parents via sperm donation – exploring notions of identity and self when your upbringing is far from conventional. So why did The D Word leave me cold.

I think it was something to do with the tone of the show, caught somewhere between comedy routine and confessional. A brusque vein of brutally smutty humour runs throughout the hour (weirdly focused on Bible-bashing jokes at one point) that keeps the audience somewhat at arm’s length rather than embracing us fully into his story. Tales of being outed by his birth mum at 11 raise a chuckle but his growing emotional distance from his other mum Dawn once their relationship ends is left unexplored.

And that’s the crucial trigger here, as it is Dawn’s untimely death that awakens in Jordan the desire to find out about his biological father even though the law forbids it. But even with this weightier material, winding its way to a touching climax at a funeral, there always seems to be this facade up. And maybe that’s necessary, giving us Jordan the performer versus Jordan the person, but when the narrative being offered is so deeply personal, it’s hard not to want more of the latter. 

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Photo: Holly Revell
The D Word is booking at the VAULT Festival until 17th February

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