Open letter to the cast of Daniel

23 March 2016

To the cast and crew of Daniel,

There are many things I would like to say to you all, but I feel it is appropriate first to thank you. Those of you who I have already spoken to have treated me with such kindness and showed genuine concern and thoughtfulness towards my position.

For a long time I never fully expressed how I was affected when I was informed that someone very close to me was arrested for similar charges as the title character, Daniel. It happened while I was at university, and when people asked why I suddenly had to go home I hurriedly mumbled "family emergency" and scarpered before I could be further questioned or comforted, as if they could try to understand.

To be truthful, I didn’t even understand. I didn’t understand how this man I had grown up with, who had given me birthday presents, who had cared for his wife, his children and for his friends could do such a horrific and unforgivable thing. I didn’t know if I was angry with him, hurt, scared or sorry for him. When I eventually got home my parents began apologising to me, they were sickened that he had ever had the opportunity to be a part of my life and had concluded then he was to be ostracised and kept away from me at all costs. They still haven’t called him by his name since they found out. It was all very quick, he was arrested, charged and imprisoned in a very short space of time, and when he attempted to contact my father through a letter, it was read, destroyed and my father never responded. When I asked what it said, he didn’t tell me. He said he didn’t want me reading anything like that from "that man".

When I watched Daniel, it was the first time since his arrest that I had been given the time and opportunity to think about how I felt. Not how my family felt, or his family, or his other friends, but what I thought of a man who I had once trusted so much. And it was while I was watching that I realised I didn’t know, couldn’t know how I felt. There were things I DESPERATELY wanted to ask him, but I also didn’t know if I could even look at him, while also feeling the desperation to hug him and tell him that I was still there. Which is scary. How could I still love a man who did something so vile?

Daniel showed the perspectives of five people, all of varying acquaintance to Daniel himself. And all with different reactions. And I saw myself, I saw myself AND my family and friends in every single character. It was both releasing and miserable; I was all five characters and the layers of their voices, their arguments, their outrage, their confusion all combined in my mind. It was cathartic; painful but beneficial. I felt like I had finally been able to say all the things I had ever wanted to say about that horrible, HORRIBLE situation, and yet I hadn’t said a word. This specifically happed at four points in the play:

1) When the audience was asked to imagine what it was like

Of course I didn’t have to, but knowing that the cast had tried, that they were challenging an audience to, and that they were giving voices to people like me who were stuck in the impossible situation of loathing someone you also dearly loved.

2) The stories about his mum

This brought back memories of hearing about how my family friend’s wife had been subjected to the worst possible treatment a person could receive. How she spiralled into a deep depression and was repeatedly asked how she couldn’t have suspected a thing. How she had had to scrape burning shit off her door step in order to take her daughter to school. How their son was forced to change school because of the bullying he got from his peers and how his friends and his teachers just assumed that he too might be "fucked" or that his father had abused him. Neither of his children now speak to their father. They can’t bear to acknowledge their father, he isn’t their father anymore, he has become the monster they never knew they were most afraid of.

3) “Cut his bollocks off”

Whenever people make those hideous pop-culture, untasteful, Jimmy Savile-Rolf Harris-Yewtree bullshit jokes I make it clear just how unfunny I find them. Because nothing about it is funny, and by making it a joke we not only dehumanise those responsible but also the victims, the families and everyone and anyone who is affected by it. You make their pain, their self-conflict, their shame a farce. I was particularly drawn to Jack Solloway’s character as the best friend; his passionate ramblings where he tries to show his frustration with the harsh animal/human reaction to paedophilia really struck me. I was incredibly moved.

4) Daniel's voice

This was the most emotional point for me. Hearing the voice of the man we’d heard so much about. Because I haven’t spoken to this family friend for more than two years now. I don’t even know which prison he is in. And just like the characters, I know in my gut that he should be punished for what he did because what he did was monstrous. However, he is still a man who was and is capable of love and kindness and goodness. He needs remanding and rehabilitating. But I would give anything just to hear his voice and know that he is OK.

When I walked out after watching Daniel, I was speechless. What I had felt had been reflected and shared for all to see and it wasn’t even my story. It was incredible, and I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Daniel cast and crew, you sensitively and creatively showed the other hidden victims of paedophilia. Those wracked with guilt because they didn’t and couldn’t know, those disgusted by their own kin and those torn between their sense of duty and their morality. It was intense, but liberating. And I hope you understand just how significant this piece was for me.

Thank you.

The writer has asked to remain anonymous.