They say that fatherhood is the toughest job a man will ever have in life. Judging by Chris Dingli’s excellent one-man show, Bad Dad, which ran at M Space, Msida, it’s probably also the most fun. Using just a raised platform, two plastic chairs and a table, Dingli takes us through his own rollicking, real life odyssey from carefree thirty-something year old to becoming a first-time dad.
The show opens with a hilarious mimed sketch that any father who had to oversee night-time feeding duties would immediately identify with. Dingli’s impeccable comic timing and clowning were reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson’s Mr Bean and had everyone in stitches from the word go.
Shifting freely from stand-up routines to comic sketches, Dingli wisely avoided to tell his story in chronological order, preferring instead to go back and forth in time from the moment he found out he was about to become a dad to his daughter’s first birthday. This made the storytelling much more interesting and natural.
I was genuinely moved by Dingli’s personal journey of discovery
The aim of the show is to show how the life of a perfectly normal man is so completely transformed once kids show up. In particular, Dingli highlights all his own struggles and failures to cope with his obligations as a father.
This was best exemplified in his retelling of his experience as a very unwilling participant in an antenatal group in West London, presided over by a new-age facilitator that went by the name of Spirit. His disdain for both the esoteric methods espoused by the facilitator as well as for the one-upmanship of the posh dads attending the group was a highlight of the evening.
Another memorable sketch was that showing how the simple act of the weekly supermarket shop has been transformed by the arrival of children into the equation.
Using music and physical movement to great effect, he turned a visit to the supermarket into a frantic race against time that must be carried out with precise quasi-military precision and resembling a dangerous rescue operation to salvage the most essential shopping items in the limited time available before the baby starts to scream her head off.
Although it’s been a while since I laughed so much during a theatre performance, it was not just the comedy that made this a really memorable performance. I was genuinely moved by Dingli’s personal journey of discovery of the true meaning of fatherhood.
The way he described the first moment that he bonded with his daughter in a hospital examination room, feeling helpless yet hopelessly taken by this tiny creature that entered into his life, brought a lump to my throat.
Dingli’s experience working as a professional actor in the UK, as well as his growing involvement in the area of improvisation, has stood him in good stead. It was a pleasure to see him command the stage so confidently and hold the audience’s attention throughout the entire 80 minutes of the show. The birth of his first daughter might be the main reason he is currently back on the local stage. However, his presence is extremely welcome.