My Family: Not the Sitcom at the Playhouse Theatre
My Family is an intimate show, and the Playhouse theatre is probably the perfect venue for it: large enough to handle the volume of audience this production will rightfully attract, small enough to suit the closed-in ethos of the piece – though describing it as intimate, by the way, is no hyperbole.
“This show is about sex and ageing!” David Baddiel says at one point and by God he is not lying. This is him almost airing the family laundry after the passing of his mother in 2014. She supplies the sex part of the equation, in the comedian’s superb narrative of her decades-long relationship with her lover, an affair that, luckily for Baddiel, she was frankly hilariously poor at keeping under wraps. His father supplies the anecdotes of ageing. Here, the performer’s vignettes of his father’s later life struggling with dementia are still extremely funny but somewhat more maudlin than the tales of the least covert affair ever recorded.
The piece is so slickly written and produced and Baddiel himself so engaging, it makes a script he must by now have performed dozens of times seem off the cuff and extremely friendly. The show, however, makes the mistake of repeating the weak point of the original run. In closing, the comedian offers a small celebration of one tiny piece of his father’s life captured years ago on film. He then asks the audience to raise their glasses in a toast to his mother. It is warm and sentimental enough to hit a powerful emotional tone, but remains the right side of schmaltzy to match the overall tone of the show and is a great way to end, until Baddiel comes back on stage post applause for a jarring Q&A with the audience. It just feels like trying to cram a bowl of ice cream on top of a superb meal – My Family: Not the Sitcom has an excellent and perfectly organic end point, just leave it there.
That said, though, if a production is being brought back for a second theatrical run, it’s probably pretty good. Thankfully, My Family: Not the Sitcom broadly lives up to the hype (the original run sold out and was nominated for an Olivier award) so anyone who missed it the first time around shouldn’t make the same mistake again. Just consider sneaking out before the Q&A begins.
Photo: Marc Brenner
My Family: Not the Sitcom is at the Playhouse Theatre from 28th March until 3rd June 2017, for further information or to book visit here.