Review: Bad Dad at Ye Olde Rose and Crown

Sarah Elizabeth Cox is a theatre critic for Stage Review and The Waltham Cat

For a show about the trials and tribulations of becoming a first-time parent, Chris Dingli’s Bad Dad has remarkably few poo anecdotes.

Sick, wee, and whatever other fluids come out of a small child (having never had one and barely met any, I’ve really no idea) are also largely missing. 

I once deleted a Facebook friend who found it appropriate to share a photograph of her baby’s first potty-trained shit: Dingli makes a good call in not expecting theatre-goers to pay for a similar experience after a long week at work.

What we get instead, in the 70-minute show written and produced by the Maltese actor and comic, is a very sweet, and by-and-large very funny, monologue exploring the social minefield parenting throws under your feet. 

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Dingli’s impersonation of posh Richmond dads one-upping each other over the latest pushchair tech and nursery makeovers the way they might with sports cars is very well done, ditto the scene with ‘Spirit’ the hippy antenatal class teacher who has what can only be described as a breastfeeding fetish.

His story about putting breast milk in visitors’ tea was a little predictable (albeit still better than a poo tale), but Dingli more than makes up for it with a hilarious slow-motion reenactment of the grocery shopping habits of exhausted new parents, and some rather fascinating insights into new-baby traditions in Malta.

Many of the biggest laughs come from the amusing turns of phrase perfectly reflecting Dingli’s naivety and bewilderment: I particularly enjoyed the notion that once a baby goes home from the hospital, people “come over to view it”.

Bad Dad’s ticket sales might suffer from The Sunday Times of Malta comparing him to Mr Bean, or from audience assumptions that it’ll either only be funny if you’ve been through the parenting experience, or perhaps not funny at all if you’ve been through it and never, ever, want to be reminded of it again

But while there are odd bits of humour that didn’t quite hit the mark with me, The Waltham Cat and I – both lurking around 30, both definitely child-free – found more than enough to laugh at all the way through. This isn’t just a show for new parents, although kudos to the ones at the back who actually brought their gorgeously well-behaved baby along. 

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The warm and honest Dingli might think he’s a Bad Dad but the absolute love he has for his daughter in the show’s poignant final scenes chokes you up whether you can directly relate as a parent or not. Far from putting me off kids for life, his final lesson was wholly reassuring. Having a baby is not the end of the world, “it’s just life”.

Bad Dad runs at Ye Olde Rose and Crown, Hoe Street, Walthamstow, until 28 May.

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