Maria Telnikoff in her show 'My Dad Wears a Dress'Meggie Boyle

When Maria Telnikoff got in touch with me about reviewing this show, I was originally slightly embarrassed by how empty my Valentine’s Day evening was looking, and how quickly I was able to confirm I could come to review her one-woman show that very same day. The bright side of all this is that I was lucky enough to see My Dad Wears a Dress, Maria’s autobiographical show about her relationship with her dad, who is a trans woman.

The show’s set was dominated by a whiteboard covered with all the scrawlings one would expect from a teenage schoolgirl (there was a lovely range, from phallic drawings to latin conjugation), including the obligatory photo of Hugh Laurie front and centre. The whiteboard doubled as a screen for Maria to change behind as she transitioned between scenes and time periods, with a well-chosen playlist keeping the audience on our toes as we waited for the next chapter of the story. The show consisted of a series of small episodes, each of which was a perfectly good, self-contained sketch in itself, but together they helped us build up a bigger picture of the story of how Maria grew up, and how her relationship with her dad changed.

"Zany humour with some serious and personal moments"

Maria’s performance was impressive from the very start, her stage presence was completely natural and it was clear that she was incredibly comfortable up in front of the audience (who absolutely loved her). Even when the occasional mishap took place (Maria’s inability to hide her disgust as she picked the wrong chocolate from a box comes to mind), it felt almost like a planned part of the performance as she brushed it off, even managing to squeeze extra laughs out of the crowd as she did so. Maria was full of energy throughout, I didn’t get the impression that she was lagging at all, even an hour and a half into the show in which there was no one else who could help keep the energy up. She was able to embody a whole variety of characters, from a six-year-old to an exasperated French teacher, all of which she committed to fully and carried through successfully. The way she changed her voice and mannerisms to seem like a small child was particularly effective, lending an extra edge to a series of jokes based on the misunderstandings we all make as children. In a show that mixed zany humour with some serious and personal moments, Maria was able to jump from funny to serious (or even both at the same time) with ease.

"Thunderous laughter from a thoroughly entertained audience"

The performer’s ability to switch so suddenly in tone and character meant that jokes based around undercutting moments of sincerity were able to land, eliciting some thunderous laughter from a thoroughly entertained audience. This was characteristic of the show’s comedy in general, which was very well crafted and had a wide range: Maria made use of snappy one-liners, character comedy, physical gags and longer setups with plentiful variety. While not every single gag had me rolling on the floor, they all landed with the audience in general, in no small part thanks to the skill of Maria’s delivery. I appreciated throughout that she was not taking herself too seriously, as is always a risk with a one-person autobiographical show, but Maria threw herself into everything she did and didn’t shy away from committing to some original physical comedy. There was nothing incredibly outlandish in the show that felt like it had just been thrown in for its own sake; everything had a place within the smaller scene, or the wider story.


Mountain View

The Gondoliers review

The show was maybe slightly long, but I would have a very hard time choosing what exactly could be cut out as everything felt important to the story, and there were no wasted moments. In case it hasn’t already been made clear, I thoroughly enjoyed My Dad Wears a Dress and am incredibly glad that I got the opportunity to see the sold-out show on its one nightstand. In fact, it’s a real shame that such a great performer and show aren’t running for any longer, as it is an example of the very best Cambridge theatre has to offer.