Review of David Baddiel's My Family: Not the Sitcom at the Vaudeville Theatre

  • Our critic's rating:
    Friday, September 16, 2016
    Review by:
    Mark Shenton

    David Baddiel has stepped far beyond his own comfort zone as a television pundit and comedian to lately invent a new kind of theatrical confessional monologue that is neither a stand-up show nor a play but something that is bruisingly honest, at times shockingly intimate and constantly revealing.

    He first did so in 2013 when he returned to the theatrical stage after nearly fifteen years away with FAME: Not the Musical, that premiered at the Menier Chocolate Factory and told of his own tangled relationship with his own celebrity status. Now My Family: Not the Sitcom, which also tried out at the Menier earlier this summer and has now transferred to the West End, continues his public exploration with own growing (up) pain.

    In it, he publicly tries to reconcile himself with the fraught emotional legacy he has inherited as the son of openly-philandering mother (who carried on a lifelong affair, right under his father's nose, with someone called David White), and a father -- a pHD-level educated chemist who ended up running a market stall -- who is now in a care home suffering from a form of dementia called Pick's disease, whose symptoms may include incessant and obscene swearing, sexual disinhibition and extreme rudeness.

    When his father's neurologist made this diagnosis, Baddiel tell us he replied, "Sorry, does he have a disease, or have you just met him? Because my father has always been like that. When he first met my partner Morwenna at my mother’s 60th birthday party, years before this diagnosis, he opened the door and said: "You couple of cunts are late".... In my mind, he does not have Pick’s disease, he has Colin Baddiel’s disease."

    His mother, meanwhile, who died suddenly 18 months ago, was equally disinhibited on personal matters, and always keen to share her son's limelight -- including stealing appearances on the red carpet for his films and in his TV shows.

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad", Philip Larkin once famously said. This pair seemed to be adept at fucking themselves up; but David Baddiel's wonderfully warm and vivid confessional is also about his own survival. And it is at once wonderfully warm yet brutally frank, fearless yet very funny portrait of his parents that shines with honesty. "You've got to laugh," he says in an unscripted post-performance Q&A with the audience. That's the message of the show and it is full of it, even as he deals with the grief of losing both his parents and how he is now finding better ways to parent his own kids, who are 10 and 15.


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