BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
01/03/2017 - 04/03/2017
NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]
A husband, father and big stupid man-baby reveals the disturbingly funny truth about life as a DILF.
DILF is an original autobiographical comedy exploring, dissecting and ultimately celebrating the life of a married father of three. Ben will be exposing to the world (starting in Wellington for the 2017 Fringe Festival) what he’s so far only admitted to his wife, while she heckles him from the lighting desk.
With direction from Dean Hewison (Lungs, Jingles – The Musical), DILF will shift from a standard stand-up comedy gig towards a one-man, one-woman comedy show slash public show trial, as wife Francesca Carney pushes husband Ben Powdrell to expose hilarious sordid details of his bachelor balls-ups and marital misdemeanors.
“As a stand-up comedian some of my best material comes from my experiences with my wife and things she’s said to me,” says writer / performer Ben. “We’ve talked about Franny becoming part of my act for years and in DILF she is finally getting her revenge for years of ‘my wife’ jokes.”
While most couples choose not to air their dirty laundry in public, Ben and Francesca can see the entertainment value of this performance couples counselling session, as well as the potential for personal growth from Ben taking the stage in this way. Says Fran, “I wanted him to dig deeper into what makes him tick… we’ll all find out together if he’s been able to cut through the crap.”
What thoughts go through the head of man dangerously close to having it all, and yet flirting with disaster, almost losing his marriage, his family, his life as he knows it? Were there any thoughts – AT ALL – in his big stupid head? Seriously – what the f**k was he thinking? This is your chance to find out.
“This is a comic who revels in poking fun at the more disturbing sides of life as a dad… we’re off to a dark and dirty start.” – Artmurmurs.nz
“Dirty, offensive and very funny.” – Audience review
Tix and bits go to www.fringe.co.nz
BATS THEATRE, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
1st – 4th March, 2017
NZ Fringe Festival
Book online at bats.co.nz | Phone 04 802 4175
$18 / $14 Concession / $12 Fringe Addicts
Theatre , Comedy ,
Under-explored and fairly offensive
Review by Michael Trigg 02nd Mar 2017
“This could be my pick of the Fringe” is a phrase I overheard more than once while milling around in the bar at BATS before opening night of DILF – a show self-described as “an autobiographical comedy exploring, dissecting and ultimately celebrating the life of a married father of three.” Expectations are high.
Written and performed by Ben Powdrell and featuring his real-life wife Fran Carney, DILF is directed by Dean Hewison. Powdrell and Hewison have, between them, an impressive and extensive list of credits – on both screen and stage – and this, too, contributes to the sense of expectation about the show that lies ahead.
It is a real pity, then, that DILF does not live up to those expectations. It is, for the most part, Powdrell’s hour of stand-up comedy – albeit with a few props and elevated production values. Having Carney as a scripted heckler (from the operating table) provides an interesting twist – but the potential this offers is never realised. A lot of Powdrell’s material falls back on tired gender stereotypes (e.g. pleasing a woman is achieved by vacuuming), but worse are the several times where the material is downright offensive.
DILF, for those wondering, means ‘Dad I’d Like to Fuck’ – a twist on the popular MILF (“Mother…”), and we enter the Heydey Dome to discover Powdrell in a soft dressing grown, on all fours on a zebra-print carpet in the centre of the stage – rose between his teeth. He encourages the audience to select props and titillate him with them – whether it be a tickle with a feather or a thrashing with a whip.
Once we’re in, Powdrell begins by explaining his whakapapa – the origins of his name (what ‘Powdrell’ loosely translates as), his family crest, and his ‘tramp-stamp’ (lower back tattoo) of the French word englober (‘to unite’).
He is a likeable and friendly performer, but the conversational relationship he establishes is slightly undermined by a slightly wooden and rehearsed delivery – and it appears he’s sticking to the safety of the script. It is when he is clearly responding to the audience that Powdrell is at his best – like reassuring us that “we’re done talking about pus, I promise!”
But it’s not long before we start entering some dodgy and unnecessary territory – jokes about Bill Cosby, animal husbandry, and Mark Lundy. When Powdrell introduces the formula DILF + MILF = CILF, there is a collectively held-breath about where this is going – and the relief is clear when he explains what he means. But having dodged this bullet, we’re immediately exposed to a volley of machine-gun fire as Powdrell reminds us that, although not for him, some people would see his children as ‘CILFs’. It’s then the basis of a mini scene about a paedophile, allowing Powdrell to describe fantasies of chopping off the genitals of such people.
Even if this were critical to the narrative of DILF, it should be treated much more carefully – but its presence is not necessary at all, merely comedic fodder about a serious and very real issue. It’s like a Louis C.K. set without any of the irony.
This pattern emerges across the entire show – moments of genuinely funny stand-up, some great one-liners, and well-presented mini-scenes, followed by unnecessary and insensitive material that is straight from the 70s. There is an enjoyable ‘boylesque’ scene that is steeped in gender stereotypes but well-directed and performed nonetheless – but then we’re back to using “pussy” to mean coward, and describing sexual fantasies involving one hundred naked Jessica Albas.
Powdrell, early on, explains that, although this story is extremely heteronormative, LGBTQIA people should just “make it work for [themselves]”. I consider this a bit of a lazy cop-out, especially when so much of the show relies on specific male-female gender roles. How is a vasectomy relevant to a queer couple, or trans* man?
More significant is the treatment of homosexuality and transgenderism in DILF – not only is the show excluding their experiences from being analogous, but it attacks them by using their sexuality or gender as a cheap target. How many more times must we hear the myth about a straight man walking into a gay bar and turning every single head?
This is not done maliciously – it is important to point that out – but it is done very recklessly, and that is no excuse. Peter Leitch and his vocal supporters have hopefully learnt this by now.
It is towards the end of the show that the real conflict comes in, and having Carney as the heckling operator raises the stakes immensely. This moment is what the entire show should be about – and where the promotional line “What the fuck was he thinking?” really becomes relevant.
But the tension is not explored. Instead a small scene is played out then quickly dismissed with another one-liner and we launch into the final anecdote in which much of the offensive material is found.
Many of the shows I’ve seen this festival have been open about being development or workshop seasons, and have charged small or no ticket fees. This is not one of those shows – it commands a prime slot on a main stage at BATS – and therefore demands an increased level of criticism. I certainly don’t think the show should be discarded, just refined, quite considerably. Exploring the pivotal conflict and expanding it to take on more significance will help, as will a harder examination of what’s necessary in the script.
A man doing stand-up while being heckled by his wife is a pretty great premise, and there is so much that could be done – especially given the events of their marriage to date. Carney perform her role well, and I would’ve loved to hear/see her more throughout.
Most of the opening-night audience laugh along throughout – and many whom I spoke to had a very good time – so I’m fully aware that my response does not and will not reflect the opinions of everyone. But I also know that several people walked out of the theatre having been violently offended – and the needs of the many should NEVER outweigh the needs of the few. Especially when one of the foundations of your show (and back tattoo) is “to unite”.
Hewison brought the fantastic and multi-award winning Jingles: The Musical to the same stage during last year’s Fringe – I was really hoping that DILF would bring a similarly high quality. As it is, my memory of DILF will be an under-explored hour of fairly offensive stand-up.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Ben powdrell March 4th, 2017
Dad I Don't Want To F*** March 3rd, 2017
Easily the worst thing I've seen at the Fringe. Maybe ever. What is funny or entertaining about drinking piss, popping pus, or having bad tattoos? A gross out fest passing itself off as theatre.