David Baddiel My Family: Not The Sitcom
As George Bernard Shaw once famously wrote: "If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." In the case of David Baddiel's new show My Family: Not The Sitcom, he doesn't so much make them out to dance, as line his parents up and conga them around the Playhouse Theatre. That and spending two hours taking his mother's grammar and her spelling of masturbation to task.
When Baddiel's mother died, he and his brothers started going through her documents and what they found has seemed to add a rich flavour to their memories. Usually around this time, people can discover dark truths they never knew about their loved ones. In Baddiel's case, his mother, Sarah, has been very open about the affair she had been conducting for decades. This inhibition, coupled to an odd Golf memorabilia fetish linked to her lover, informed much of Baddiel's life. In going through the odd wonders of his mother's impact upon him, her Jewishness and brazenness, he not so much paints a picture of an infuriated son (there is quite a bit of shouting and exasperation, which is wonderful) but of a son who misses his mum very much indeed. The tales he tells, of the constant presence of his mother's lover in their lives, her desire to be included in his fame and of her erotic poetry, are all punctuated with her odd use of inverted commas. This thread throughout the show, displayed in PowerPoint form on the screen behind him, gives us an insight into the woman he knew. We see her in clips from Who Do You Think You Are and Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned, and it is these bit that makes you warm to this woman, a refugee from the Nazi's, who for her entire life, never really got her head around the inverted comma.
Baddiel also touches on his father, who is suffering from a form of Dementia called Pick's disease, gets off a tad lighter mainly due to his still being around. But he confronts the trials of Dementia head on and attacks that horrible disease with very targeted humour and builds on the tales of his mum with the counter point of his father. His annoyance at the description of the symptoms of Pick's disease (from Wikipedia they are impaired regulation of social conduct (e.g., breaches of etiquette, vulgar language, tactlessness, disinhibition, misperception) basically describe how his dad was anyway is wonderful. The difference in the way he talks about his mother's death and the slow changing of the father he loves is heartbreaking, but Baddiel walks this line with skill and, most importantly, love. Which is what this show is about at the end of the day.
Walking into a show about parents, family, infidelity, dementia and death, you really are not sure what to expect. To leave with you heart full and honestly sore from laughing is a true achievement and have to say please go if you can get the chance. The spittle from David as we sat in the front row for the second half only added to the experience.
David Baddiel: My Family - Not The Sitcom runs till June 3rd at The Playhouse Theatre. Tickets are available here.