Writer and Performer: Chris Dingli
Reviewer: Deborah Parry
Babies don’t come with an instruction manual and thank goodness because if they did then Chris Dingli might not have been inspired to create this delightful one-man show about his experiences as a new parent, where the jokes come thick and fast (as does his daughter’s vomit, but more about that later).
The play starts on a hilarious high note with a Jim Carey-esque piece of physical comedy, as Dingli attempts to prepare a bottle and navigate around his home without waking up his newborn daughter (think Mission Impossible but with teddies instead of explosives). This set-up allows Dingli to demonstrate many of his strengths as a performer – he has impeccable comedy timing, is brilliantly expressive with both his body and face and has an immense likeability, which endears us from the outset.
And so we enter Dingli’s world, one in which he tells us that he believes that he wasn’t ever meant to be a dad (due to lacking that innate parental instinct) and wasn’t even able to even listen to his wife breaking the news of the pregnancy to him without being distracted by a slice of cake – as he puts it, he is the cake version of the Cookie Monster. This level of honesty and frankness is a winning combination and turns Dingli into a bit of a parenting underdog, rather than the one the play’s title would suggest – and we are so rooting for him.
Dingli is fantastic at finding the funny within the mundane and elicits laughter from unspectacular moments that are part of the fabric of parenting and yet wouldn’t necessarily lend themselves to comedy- such as discussing prams with other dads (theirs are full of complex specifications and his is ‘pink’); choosing his daughter’s name, which would have been Loki if she had been a boy (a character from Norse mythology and the film Thor, apparently) but as she turned out to be female, she ended up being called Imogen – which the natives of Malta (where Dingli is from) hilariously struggle to pronounce; and yes, even an anecdote about his daughter’s vomit becomes both chucklesome and charming in equal measure.
Dingli is a superb storyteller and does an excellent job of playing the different characters contained within the piece. The best being Spirit, a new age antenatal instructor who is every bit as judgemental and passive aggressive as you might expect – Dingli makes her entirely believable and real.
While friends often bombard us with photos of their offspring’s every sneeze and smile, there is something refreshing about hearing the epitome of a human experience told to us in a frank and honest way. The moments of sentimentality are never sickening and always serve to progress the story, rather than indulge. In fact, Bad Dad was so good that one hopes Chris Dingli delivers a sequel very soon.
Runs until 28 May 2016 | Image: Contributed