Blue Box, M Space, Msida
Parenthood is an exciting but daunting new chapter in one’s life, which once opened, never ends.
And being a dad is a completely different and challenging ball game for the man in question, simply because men find it rather too difficult to adapt to a different way of doing things in such a life-changing situation. Chris Dingli’s one-man-show Bad Dad, held at the Blue Box theatre at M Space in Msida, was just such a performance.
Written and produced by Dingli, the piece, lasting just over an hour, was a top-notch comedy performance. It combined elements of comic mime at the start of the piece, which were perfectly synched to music, with the trials of late-night feeds and baby comforting as a sleep-deprived parent to his one-year-old daughter, Imogen.
What promised to be an entertaining piece developed into a hilarious commentary on just how hard it is to look after a baby and adjust to the crazy manner in which your previously uncomplicated life turns completely upside down.
From tackling pregnancy and the news of a baby (during which his wife apparently appeased him with cake – his second great love after his daughter), Dingli talked the audience through the trials and tribulations of antenatal classes with a hippie instructor called Spirit in Richmond – which was where they lived until recently. The awkward conversations with other middle-class dads in the group about the best models of pushchairs on the market highlighted his complete lack of knowledge of a subject that is not as straightforward as it may seem on the surface.
Dingli’s great ability at character doubling and mimickry came to the fore in this sketch, confirming his excellent skills in observing voice, tone and mannerisms as well as his exceptional pacing and impeccable comic timing. These last two were also apparent in his storytelling intercut with slow-motion segments depicting the traumatic way in which parents with young children shop at the supermarket as opposed to the way in which childless, loved-up couples do their leisurely shopping between whispering sweet nothings to each other.
Nothing was left untouched. Criticising the choice of children’s names in Malta and other people’s reaction to his daughter’s very traditional, English one, Dingli humorously pointed out the irony in our attitudes and how hypocritical they can be.
British hospital security and his naivety were tackled in a particularly poignant episode where his daughter was rushed to hospital with a sudden illness – with the new father telling personnel who happened to find him by his daughter’s cot that he was not the baby’s father – as it had not yet sunk in. The false alarm that followed was extremely entertaining in retrospect.
The same can be said for the hilarious segment where entertaining guests and visitors who came to see the baby after she was taken home, proved to transform even the simplest task of making tea with what available milk there was, a minefield of inappropriacy.
With the added bonus of some mildly slapstick audience participation, Bad Dad, with its honest portrayal of parenthood, proved to be one of the most side-splittingly funny and entertaining performances I have seen in a long time. It would be great if Dingli were to stage the show again because it really was not to be missed.
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