The Playhouse Theatre, London.
The outside walls of the theatre are literally pasted with four and five star reviews, and so the heightened air of expectation inside is palpable. David Baddiel – former poster boy* for the New Laddism of Nineties comedy, now a sober, reflective (middle aged) parent – starts by airing a few screen caps from Twitter, breezily introducing the concept that social media is merely you, but the you you’d prefer to project, and punched up a few levels. It’s a gentle introduction, but contains the kernel of a devastating callback later in the show. We move on to a discourse on the correct use of “quotation” marks and the appropriate number of exclamation marks to add to an email’s closing sentence(!!!!) which is also generally lighthearted and pretty much what we’ve come to expect from one of the blokey, jokey architects of Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned.
Once we’re sitting comfortably though, David moves into murkier waters, and the laughs become slightly more nervous. However much he’s signified that this is okay to laugh at there’s still an innate reserve within the audience which suggests that relating graphic details of his late mother’s correspondence with her long-term lover (including family photos where he is embarrassingly obviously hidden in plain sight) is simply not the done thing. When, in the second half of the show, he moves on to discussing his father’s diagnosis and subsequent experiences in living with dementia it almost comes as light relief, which gives you some idea of how knuckle-clenching the first bit is.
This isn’t to say that it’s complete misery-porn throughout. The evening is enlightened by clips from David’s TV career illustrating and emphasizing points he raises during the show, and even cat home movies (which do, admittedly, hark back to earlier fixations from his stand up career). At the show’s conclusion, however, there are a couple twin gut-punch revelations which are almost immediately swept aside by a prop-based reveal which thankfully ends the show on a laugh and a high.
*My wife had a poster, so this is technically absolutely true.
Grown up children of elderly parents. Grown up parents of elderly children.
It made me think..
This is a beautifully thoughtful, brutally honest show, which may well change the whole way you look at your extended family, if you have one. Also, fifteen quid for a gin and tonic is pushing it, no matter how charming the staff are. And they really are.