Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
23/09/2008 - 04/10/2008
Daddy’s Home is a comedy about bringing up baby, from the guy’s point of view. When Bruce stays home he is thrown into the alien world of coffee groups and super-mum’s, and meets Roger, who is going to show him how a real man does it.
World Premiere Tuesday 23 September
Strictly limited 2 week run!
Tuesday 23 September to Saturday 4 October 2008, at 8pm
At The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
Book at ITICKET – (09) 361 1000 or www.iticket.co.nz
$30, Groups (4+) $28, Students, Writers Guild, Actors Equity and Technician’s Guild Members $20 (service fee may apply)
Aaron Ward (Aladdin, The Producers)
Jonathan Hodge (Tis a Pity She's a Whore, Based on Auckland, PlayRight 07)
Li-Ming Hu (Shortland Street, Spin Doctors, Lantern)
Cherie James (Outrageous Fortune, The Market, Makatu, The Play About the Baby)
Elizabeth McGlinn (Romeo and Juliet, Four Stages of Passion)
Review by Renee Liang 04th Oct 2008
“Best not drop the baby!” How many first-time dads have heard this joke and inwardly groaned. After all, in today’s modern world, surely Dads are as well-equipped as Mums to handle the pressures of full-time parenting. It is with this thought that Laurence Dolan’s new play, Daddy’s Home, opens.
In what starts as a fast-paced comedy, Bruce (Aaron Ward), a first time father, is left holding the baby when his lawyer wife Rebecca (Li-Ming Hu) goes back to work. Proving that nothing is cuter than an earnest dad, he infiltrates the world of career mums – a world that is not so much oestrogen-rich as oestrogen saturated. But this play avoids cheap laughs at incompetent dads. Bruce is able not only to efficiently handle the messy baby side of things with less fuss than the average first-time mum, he also cooks, cleans and reads childcare manuals. In short, he appears to be the perfect man – even showing sympathy to oversensitive and dominating Rebecca, who is caught between her maternal instincts and career drive.
Dolan, an Auckland playwright, drew on his real life experiences as a stay-at-home Dad for this play. In tackling the topic of parenting and gender equality – from a different angle to the usual – he avoids the temptation to stereotype or go for predictable jokes (though some do creep in). Dolan takes potshots at those who make assumptions about the motivations of stay-at-home Dads, and makes some interesting points about how this little-understood group are perceived by the rest of the community. Because of these and other factors, Daddy’s Home is much more intelligent and meaningful than an earlier ATC offering this year, also on the topic of parenting.
In a scene that establishes the cast’s talent for comedic timing, Bruce attends coffee group with stressed mum Tracy (Cherie James), gossipy Donna (Elizabeth McGlinn) and hippie Sally (Hu again). What follows is a hilarious condensation of possibly all the nightmare conversations Dolan has ever had at coffee groups. A warning: just as coffee group mothers have no-holds-barred, so does this play. There are “full and frank” disclosures of everything from orgasmic experience to what comes out of baby’s nether regions.
The talented cast is one of this play’s obvious assets. The dialogue is fast and tight, the audience eased into a sense of fun from the outset. The three women play a variety of characters each, from the aforementioned coffee group mums to a bolshy waitress, a doctor and a detective. The last key character is Roger (Jonathan Hodge), a more experienced Dad that Bruce meets at a local café. The two dads start meeting as part of their daily routine, initially to compare notes, but also for good old fashioned mateship and a sense of solidarity.
Hodge is perfect as the pedantic, advice-dispensing dad of an older toddler, giving lectures on everything from baby buggy aerodynamics to correct car seat placement. Hu and Ward, playing the saintly Bruce and his wife Rebecca, display a physical ease and enjoyment which make them a joy to watch. Ward has impeccable comedic timing and subtlety whilst Hu plays against type, proving her considerable comedic talent. It’s good to see some colourblind casting decisions at last. McGlinn and James give good support, with James’ turn as frazzled and abandoned mum Tracy deserving special mention for its blend of pathos and comedy.
Unfortunately, one thing that does let Daddy’s Home down is its set. The simple background draping – looking like pastel bedsheets, although I hope that’s not the case – transmits backstage noise and movement. The plastic dolls used as baby substitutes look rather too… um, plastic, though the Plunket carseats add an authentic touch. Possibly cloth bundles or mime would have worked just as well for babies. There is a great deal of heavy furniture that is moved around by the cast between scenes, but this takes so long that it detracts from the energy of the piece. I felt a simpler, shorter set change could have helped hook the audience into the story a little earlier. However, the costumes, including some sponsored suits from Cue, were spot-on.
Although Daddy’s Home has been marketed as a comedy, it’s not all light and bright. Rather, Dolan takes as his topic the conflicts and anxieties of parenting. He makes the point that there is no right way to do it, only the requirement to really care. And to make his point, there are some surprising – and dark – twists in the tale. But that may already be giving away too much.
This is a play that can be enjoyed on many levels – from its comedic moments which had every parent in the audience roaring in recognition, to the emotion-junkies like myself getting a fix. The play is also a thoughtful exploration of issues around modern parenting, and as such should appeal to a wide audience. The ending is both satisfying and poetic, leaving the audience with a warm glow. I highly recommend seeing Daddy’s Home.
Originally published in The Lumière Reader.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Review by Jessie Kollen 24th Sep 2008
When his wife Rebecca decides to go back to work, Bruce gives up his job to look after their infant son. The play opens with the birth of the baby, or rather Bruce’s nightmare about the birth, which he is having as he sleeps over his morning coffee and newspaper…
It’s his first day on the job as primary caregiver and his wife leaves for work in a whirl of guilt at leaving her young son and excitement at returning to her career. Bruce’s first activity is to attend the mothers’ coffee group -an experience which can strike terror into the heart of any parent, and a scene which can best be described as Bruce’s baptism by fire. Escaping the mothers, Bruce heads to a café for a more peaceful coffee and meets Roger, another stay-at-home dad. Roger seems a little overbearing, but after he gives an earnest demonstration of the speed and manoeuvrability of his child’s pram, Bruce finds himself laughing. Daddy’s Home tells its tale from a father’s point of view and takes much of its comedy from that perspective, but the story hinges on a simple fact of life: no matter who you are, parenting is exhausting and wonderful and no-body ever really knows exactly what they are doing all of the time.
Daddy’s Home (written by Laurence Dolan) is uncomplicated entertainment, the characters and dialogue are natural and the humour will have the audience laughing all the way through the evening. Thanks to the subject matter some of the jokes are a little predictable, but that doesn’t make them any less funny and the direction (Tony Forster) and the ability of the actors has made sure that the delivery is always at a good pace. Aaron Ward does such a convincing job as Bruce it’s hard to believe he isn’t Bruce and Bruce’s wife Rebecca is played by Li-Ming Hu, who also appears as coffee group mother Sally. Li-Ming Hu seemed to take a little while to relax, but nevertheless gave energetic likeability to her characters. Roger is perfectly played by Jonathan Hodge -he may bring a tear to your eye! The coffee group mothers, Tracy (Cherie James) and Donna (Elizabeth McGlinn), as well as appearing in smaller incidental roles in the play, both give good performances, Cherie James in particular as the desperately sleep deprived Tracy.
Daddy’s Home provides all the laughs that the scenario of a stay-at-home father promises, but not because Bruce is a failure, indeed, despite nightmares about dropping the baby and an impromptu nap on a park bench with calamitous results, Bruce is as successful a parent as anyone can hope to be.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Annabella October 2nd, 2008Daddy's Home was well written and well acted, by only 5 actors who very competently shared all the roles. Although hilarious at times, it was serious and authentic enough to remind parents of what parenting is all about - wanting the best for their children. An entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable evening by a great cast.
Ophelia September 25th, 2008Yes, I agree with this review. It's an evening of fun that's promised and delivered by the script and the direction. The actors are all excellent. This is a show that everyone involved with it can be proud of. I hope it enjoys a good season.
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