Often at shiva prayers it strikes me how much the late-lamented might have enjoyed the gathering of nearest and dearest, but would they have enjoyed the eulogies? Might they not have confessed (or complained) “that’s not the real me, warts and all”? David Baddiel goes further in his scurrilous tribute to his late mother, who died suddenly in 2014. He confides in his audience that Sarah Baddiel loved not only being centre stage, but also a bearded, pipe-smoking golf salesman for 20 years – apparently unnoticed by her husband, even wangling him an invitation to David’s bar mitzvah. Seriously, he’s there in the photo album.
If you think that this might make for uncomfortable laughter, don't worry. Sarah herself gives posthumous sanction, caught on camera delighted at being the centre of attention as a volunteer audience member in a TV comedy panel game starring Baddiel and Frank Skinner. To her son’s visible discomfiture she pulls focus by writing something on the board that offers far too much information about her sex life – his mortification is complete when he feels he must correct her spelling of an unmentionable word to boot.
What follows is an exasperated and affectionate no-holds-barred exposé, not just of the nuts and bolts of her grand passion, but also of her foibles. Her lover sold golfing memorabilia, so, presumably working on the theory that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, she set up a rival business.
She would send inappropriate emails to her lover, copying in her sons, perhaps so they could share her facility with misplaced inverted commas. I found myself weeping - with laughter. Sarah would surely have loved sharing the joke too.
Baddiel is wonderfully at home alone onstage, on a set (production design by Declan Randall) decked out like a Jewish rococo living room, surrounded by family photos in frames of every shape and on every surface including the back walls, underfoot a black-and-tan Persian-style carpet.
Baddiel’s father Colin survives Sarah, but perhaps his son is in mourning for him too, for he has dementia – a particularly difficult form called Pick’s disease, which makes him extraordinarily foul-mouthed, aggressive and – you’ve guessed it – prone to sexually inappropriate behaviour. Baddiel gets laughs when he responds to the neurologist’s explanation of the symptoms: "Sorry, does he have a disease or have you just met him?" He gets guffaws when he shares the Daily Mail’s shock-horror headline: "David Baddiel’s agony amid fears he is contracting dementia". And he gets my sympathy and admiration for finding and sharing the funny in losing his parents.
By Judi Herman
My Family: Not the Sitcom runs from Tuesday 28 March - Saturday 3 June. 8pm, 3pm (Wed & Sat only), from £23.50, at Playhouse Theatre, WC2N 5DE. www.playhousetheatrelondon.com
Suitable for ages 16+ as the show contains mature language and subject matter