Even if your dad doesn’t usually wear a dress, you will find this show amazingly relatable. The comedy/autobiographical show consisting of short childhood scenes, and using a whole chest of props, is uplifting, but also a tad silly. It’s a performance that will make you laugh and relax after a long, tiring day.
Disclaimer: if you are not a fan of adults acting out kids’ and teenage roles in an overly expressive way, this might not be a proposition for you.
Maria Telnikoff creates the role of an over-the-top, expressive young girl and teenager, who does the things we all did as kids. She discovers the unexpected fun of lying for the first time. She devours a box of chocolates while thinking about the 3 boys she fancies and what to get them for Valentine’s day. But she does also carry this shameful family secret, which makes her tremble whenever a teacher asks her to recite a story about her family.
Because (no drumrolls, that’s definitely not a spoiler), her Dad wears a dress. Despite her parents’ divorce, Telnikoff paints the relationship with her Dad as warm, very open and drama-free. We follow her as she starts building the courage to reveal the truth about her Dad to her best friend on a bus ride home, and eventually, slowly eases into revealing this fact to people around her.
The acting is energetic, loud and all over the place. Telnikoff does her best, however, the story is very much tilted towards a happy time and daily teenager’s struggles (which still is, by itself, totally fine). The main hook, however, and why the audience probably ends up spending their cold rainy evening in Barons Court Theatre, is the title, Dad.
The Dad is introduced relatively late in the show, and you can almost hear the audience sigh “oooh finally”. It was a nicely timed reveal though, I have to say. The title of the production sets certain expectations, and Telnikoff plays with the audience and teases some themes, but doesn’t dive deeper into it until almost the very end. I was slightly disappointed about it, but the show still defended its value as a comedy/stand-up kind of gig. I loved the little moments when the performance was self-aware (the pun about female solo shows made my day).
Telnikoff, with her outgoing personality and energetic presence, keeps the show’s pace high. The story is structured as a set of quick, chronologically set episodes. The energy and speed is highlighted even more with multiple instant costume changes and some spot-on song choices with a recurring female theme ( Shania Twain, anyone?). I’ve lost count of how many scenes were there in the show – which works, but I also hoped for one or two slower moments that help could balance this show’s pace. The scenes are mostly incredibly short, giving the chance to laugh and understand, but not long enough to become emotionally invested.
Baron’s Court Theatre, being one of the most intimate theatres in London, provides a chance to feel as close to the performer as possible. It’s such a benefit here: Telnikoff gets to share sweets and party poppers in the finale, even the audience in the back seats, easily.
“My Dad Wears a Dress” is a fun, extremely personal celebration of acceptance and breaking own fears. It’s a lightweight show, so if you are feeling a bit down after seeing some depressing movies or theatre plays recently (or just feeling the dark winter mood a bit too much), this could be the perfect antidote!
by Maria Telnikoff
Baron’s Court Theatre
22 – 26 November 7:30 pm