Ever felt like you’re less than per­fect? Trail­blaz­ing Frank En­stein lead Daniel Monks has been there, and he has a pow­er­ful mes­sage for Bleach* au­di­ences

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - OFFICIAL BLEACH PROGRAM - SALLY COATES

L ife hasn’t been easy for Daniel Monks, who at the age of 11 was ren­dered tem­po­rar­ily quad­ri­plegic af­ter a spinal cord tu­mour biopsy and per­ma­nently par­tially dis­abled.

Grow­ing up, he strug­gled com­ing to terms with his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, clos­et­ing him­self for many years.

But, against all odds, this gay, dis­abled per­former made lemon­ade of life’s chal­lenges and is now star­ring in his first live lead role.

“It’s a mag­i­cal dance theatre re-imag­in­ing of the clas­sic tale Franken­stein,” he says.

“The big change the di­rec­tors have made is they con­sider, what if the doc­tor was out­cast and the rea­son he cre­ates these mon­sters is to feel loved? I play the doc­tor.

“I’m cre­at­ing the beau­ti­ful, won­der­ful su­per-hu­mans who in my eyes are per­fect.

“My thought process is if they love me it will give me more worth. So it’s a tale about self-love and how we per­ceive our im­per­fec­tions.”

Daniel’s dis­abil­ity is some­thing that could hold him back in a lead­ing role, but in­stead of let­ting it, he got cre­ative with Frank En­stein di­rec­tors Gavin Web­ber and Grayson Millwood.

“I have lim­i­ta­tions – my right arm is com­pleted paral­ysed and my right leg has par­tial paral­y­sis,” Daniel says.

“As any­one with a dis­abil­ity knows, when you have lim­its life is all about find­ing dif­fer­ent path­ways and find­ing ways to do what we want to do.”

The path­way to re­al­is­ing this par­tic­u­lar dream was a windy one – Daniel ad­mits he al­most lost his way.

“When I was younger all I wanted to do was act but when my dis­abil­ity oc­curred my mind­set was ‘Now I can’t act, I don’t know of any other dis­abled ac­tors’,” he says.

“Through that I dis­cov­ered film­mak­ing and stud­ied at the Na­tional Film School.

“I went be­hind the scenes be­cause I thought that was where I could still be in­volved if I wasn’t act­ing. I started mak­ing a film that was es­sen­tially based on me and I thought, well, there’s no­body bet­ter to play me, than me. So I did and shoot­ing that film ev­ery day I re­alised that’s what I wanted to be do­ing.”

Daniel’s po­ten­tial as a per­former is far greater than he orig­i­nally en­vi­sioned.

“I do feel as a dis­abled per­son we need more rep­re­sen­ta­tion on stages and screens,” Daniel says.

“A part of the rea­son I would never give up is that I want to change the prece­dent.

“I want to blaze those trails so other young dis­abled peo­ple won’t give up on those dreams.

“It’s re­ally heart­en­ing and ex­cit­ing to see other suc­cess sto­ries and I hope it con­tin­ues un­til it be­comes nor­mal.”

This poses the ques­tion, as a dis­abled ac­tor, how does he feel when he sees able-bod­ied peo­ple por­tray­ing a dis­abled char­ac­ter?

“It’s hard. I’ll first say there are al­ways ex­cep­tions – for ex­am­ple, you need an able­bod­ied ac­tor if you’re see­ing the char­ac­ter be­fore their dis­abil­ity. A study in the US found 95 per cent of dis­abled char­ac­ters on screen are played by able-bod­ied ac­tors. That is just baf­fling and in­sane.

“That statis­tic needs to flip and we need to at least be cast­ing dis­abled peo­ple in dis­abled roles. Screen Aus­tralia did an amaz­ing study and found dis­abil­ity is the most un­der-rep­re­sented mi­nor­ity on screen. The odds are stacked against us, but that’s why we need to keep be­ing our­selves and push­ing for­ward.”

While Frank En­stein doesn’t ex­plic­itly ex­plore dis­abil­ity, Daniel re­lates to its themes of self-love and ac­cep­tance.

“I think cur­rently there are so few sto­ries about dis­abil­ity in terms of roles,” he says.

“Of­ten my roles are my char­ac­ter ex­plor­ing the con­cepts that do re­late to dis­abil­ity, like Frank En­stein.

“There aren’t au­then­tic sto­ries about dis­abil­ity.

“The dream is to play char­ac­ters where the dis­abil­ity isn’t de­nied nor high­lighted – I’m more than my dis­abil­ity. ”

Daniel’s close con­nec­tion with his char­ac­ter in Frank En­stein should strike a chord.

“It’s been re­ally beau­ti­ful and I’m re­ally ex­cited to share it with au­di­ences. If I’d seen the show when I was younger, es­pe­cially af­ter I be­came dis­abled, it would have had a great im­pact on me. Even just work­ing on a pro­fes­sional dance show, I mean, if act­ing was a long shot, danc­ing wasn’t even on the radar.

“So it’s been re­ally amaz­ing, ful­fill­ing my child­hood dreams of per­form­ing and act­ing and danc­ing, but also on a project that means so much to me.” Frank En­stein, to­mor­row and Satur­day night at The Arts Cen­tre

Daniel Monks plays the doc­tor in Frank En­stein, a haunt­ing dance theatre re-imag­in­ing of the clas­sic tale.

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