Writer: Jordan Waller
Director: Max Gill
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
The D Word is Jordan Waller’s slick one-man show about origins and grief. We are never quite sure what the D word is. At first it seems to stand for Dawn, the name of one of his lesbian mothers. But as this one-hour play progresses other words starting with D seem just as likely. Dyke? Daddy possibly? Or perhaps Death, which haunts this otherwise bright comedy.
Because Waller’s two mothers acquired sperm from a sperm bank, Waller does not know who his father is. Early on in the piece he compares himself to Jesus; they are both products of an immaculate conception. This opening image may suggest that irreverence may dominate the rest of the show, but Waller manages to pair this kind of humour with a moving story of loss.
Waller is an excellent storyteller, and within minutes he has the audience’s wrapt attention. He takes us through his childhood years and gives us brief vignettes of both his mothers. Surrounded by lesbians as he grew up, Waller created an Endykeopedia, a taxonomy of the different kinds of lesbians he encountered. With the aid of a projector, he shows us some of these drawings, and they are very funny.
At an early age his mothers split up, and Waller goes to live with his birth mother, who is like ‘Joanna Lumley on a gap year’ and who chain-smokes in the most elegant manner. She realises that Waller is gay before he does, and she ‘outs’ him at the age of 11. Bullied at school for his long golden locks, Waller protects himself by becoming, in his words, ‘a super gay’ with the best wisecracks and the most cutting putdowns.
Occasionally, this smutty humour undercuts the serious parts of this play, especially towards the end when he delivers the show’s key speech. But apart from these occasional missteps, this is a strong performance by Waller. He is charmingly confident, and impressively needs few props to tell his story. There may be some embellishments to this autobiographical tale, but the narrative never suffers because of this. Tightly structured, there is not one dull moment.
Reaching its halfway stage, The VAULT Festival is now in its fourth week, and there have been some outstanding one-man shows so far. Last week, there was Infinity,a heart-rending portrayal of depression by Nessa Matthews, and the hilarious We’ve Got Each Other by Paul O’Donnell, and at the start of the festival there was the clever Velvet by Tom Ratcliffe. The D Word by Jordan Waller is just as good.
Runs until 17 February 2019 | Image: Holly Revell