Tuesday, July 11, 2023

DADDY: A PLAY | A French Teen (Virtual) Sex Worker?

Here's (part of) the synopsis for Marion Siéfert's intriguingly named Daddy:

From her very first shows, Marion Siéfert has staged childhood, not to soften us but to make her demands and her revolt against the world of adults heard [...]

This time, the heroine of her new show is thirteen years old. She lives in the provinces, in a family where money problems are daily, suffocating. So she dreams of leading the life of the stars and influencers she sees spread out on the networks. 

She escapes by playing video games, these role plays where dozens of players meet online. The avatar she chose for herself falls on that of an older man, who drags her into another game, Daddy. He fills her with skills (the winnings or gifts specific to these games), on condition that she submits herself to increasingly troubled trials...

On the Daddy stage, real life fades away in favor of a digital reality where everything can be bought and changed.

As the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe is not in New York, we did not see Daddy; so, let's rely on Laura Cappelle's New York Times review "Daddy Review: Deeper Into the Internet’s Darkest Corners" (May 11, 2023)

Cappelle wrote that Daddy was a "sharp" [age-gap] play that took place in the "internet’s dark corners", but that Mara, the play's nymphet ,was "groomed" and exploited for profit. 

With “Daddy,” a sharp, no-holds-barred new production [...] Marion Siéfert has ventured even further into the internet’s dark corners. In it, a 13-year-old is groomed online by an older man [27-year-old Julien] and gets lost in a virtual reality game that exploits teenage girls for profit.

[Note: Without seeing the play, one may be wary of Cappelle's grooming accusation, because in Emma Cline's Daddy, one may allege that 16-year-old Alice was groomed into selling her panties to men, but an 18-year-old Alice would have been, à la Sami Sheen, a (teen) sex worker.]

Cappelle went on to share that Mara (15-year-old Lila Houel), a quite nymphet, lived in southern France and played online games as an escape, which is how she met Julien, but interestingly, Cappelle wrote that Julien was Mara's "online partner in crime" and that the age-gap couple gamers had an "easy intimacy".

Reality is no match for screen entertainment in “Daddy.” The central character, Mara, is a quiet teenager from southern France [...] [who] whenever she can, Mara escapes to the brighter landscape of online gaming.

In an unnamed video game, she joins Julien, a smooth-talking 27-year-old who is her frequent online partner in crime. The easy intimacy they have built is showcased through a spectacular video sequence: On a screen the size of the Odéon’s stage, we see a 3-D game designed by the video artist Antoine Briot in which Mara and Julien’s avatars who shoot at enemies with assault rifles before hopping on fluorescent skateboards.

Intriguingly, in addition to being a smooth talker, Cappelle described Julien as "clean-cut, in control [i.e., powerful], smoothly scary". In other words, per Olivia Fox Cabane's The Charisma MythJulien was charismatic and attractive. Yet, Cappelle implied that Julien groomed Mara with compliments, whom consequently lost her free will and was forced to: "[...] perform routines that earn them points with fans."

The groundwork is laid for the abusive dynamic that ensues. When they first meet outside the game, on a video call, Mara confides in Julien that she dreams of being an actress. He compliments her, and tells her about “Daddy” — a new game that allows players, Julien says, to become avatars sponsored by sugar daddies, and showcase their talents to a “fan base.” 

In the end, despite the plays focus "on the dynamics of child abuse, and the erosion of Mara’s individuality and willpower by Julien." And the: "[...] scenes of verbal and physical violence [...]", Marion Siéfert's Daddy was a New York Times Critic's Pick. 

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