Edinburgh Fringe 2023
“Award-winning theatre-maker Bertie Hodd presents: Dad Jokes. A coming-of-middle-age story about one regular Dad’s quest to understand his transgender child….Part comedy show, part creative workshop, part birthday party, our host with the most genders will guide you, via the medium of party games and witchcraft, towards our gender identity of dreams.”
In Bertie Hodd: Dad Jokes, Hodd, the self-proclaimed “host with the most genders,” portrays the father of a child who is coming out to him as non-binary. The father’s emotional and literal journey that results is a delight, made all the more apt by the fact that the show is performed on the top level of a double-decker bus.
The bus may not move, but the show certainly does. And like all forms of mass transportation, the close quarters force host and audience members to interact in direct ways they would otherwise not. But not to worry: Hodd makes an excellent host. Entertainment is their goal, not intimidation, and not a single member of the audience seemed intimidated or anxious when asked to participate. And who doesn’t like to play Pass the Parcel?
Hodd plays other characters besides Dad, and does so with great panache (the typing bureaucrat was priceless), but Dad is the focus of this show, and Hodd’s take on the character, one that I imagine is based closely on Hodd’s own father, is consistently hilarious and always affectionate. That affection runs deep throughout the hour-long show, making every minute an engaging and charming delight.
The technical elements of the show are necessarily limited, and the barebones approach is mostly used to great effect, especially when Dad visits a nightclub in search of his child. There are a few dead moments when Hodd exits the space to change character that stop the momentum that could easily be fixed with a music cue or two, but other than that Hodd is in absolute control of their show and their audience.
With an impish grin and an indomitable spirit, Hodd consistently surprises not only with their well-structured story choices but also with their spontaneous reactions to audience responses, including a participatory prayer near the show’s end that had all in stitches. And I have not yet mentioned that Hodd can really sing; their parodic take on a Cy Coleman classic from Sweet Charity is not only funny but also lovely to the ear. With Hodd at the helm, Bertie Hodd: Dad Jokes is a ride well worth taking.