Wonderland: The Madness of Dancing Daniel

February 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

BBC2, Wednesday 6th February

This week’s Wonderland, produced and directed by Fergus O’Brien, focussed on an unusual man with a complex and indefinable personality disorder struggling to find a place that will house him. Twenty-nine year old Daniel Turnbull is being treated by Professor Peter Tyrer, who describes him as what people regrettably see as “trouble?, a “leper? of society. Daniel is certainly no walk in the park. He is boisterous and demanding with a loftily shrill voice that would drive those around him pretty mad! However, he needs to find accommodation soon or he risks remaining on a psychiatric ward for a very long time.

We see the earnest Professor devotedly strive to find him lodgings in London as Daniel desperately wants to stay in the city but be forced to explain that he may not be accepted anywhere nearby. On the hunt of new smart clothes for an interview at lodgings in Plymouth they take an entertaining trip to Primark where Daniel prances round declaring, “I just want a normal red tie like Tony Blair would wear?. When he finally moves to a place in West London that accepts him at the last minute it is actually with mixed feelings but the Professor notes that this is the best thing that could have happened for him.

A captivating example of the frightening power of nurture, or the lack of, and just how much our upbringing shapes the way we think and behave, the programme sees him articulate his one true calling, dancing. As he pulsates to “Like a Virgin? with glazed-over eyes, he describes a happy memory from his childhood where he danced to a Madonna record. Happy memories, it turns out, are somewhat of a rarity – with a drug dealer of a father and a mother hooked on heroin it seems as if Daniel was rather neglected as a child. Though rescued at the event of his mother’s overdose by Dennis, a kind neighbour who adopted him, at the age of about twenty-one he quite suddenly began to have mental problems that meant he needed professional help.

More than the anything, the documentary illustrated the good that it’s possible to find within pretty bleak situations. When one person fails you, another will be sure to step in. Where there is neglect, somewhere nearby is support.

By Susan Allen