Like much of the comedy currently clogging up Edinburgh, Toby Hadoke’s latest show is fundamentally about the man on stage, about his life experiences and his personal relationships (such as splitting from one partner, but gaining another). Unlike most, however, the filter through which all this is processed isn’t sport, politics or the latest celebrity parties. It’s Doctor Who.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t some nerdfest filled with incestuous references to episodes broadcast 30-plus years ago. A couple of fan-friendly in-jokes notwithstanding, Hadoke is careful to ‘fill in the necessary details’ about any specific Doctor Who references. As a result, the audience can easily enjoy his recollections about how his interest in the programme helped shape his life - not least him somehow managing to fit in watching two episodes of The Seeds of Doom (a 1976 serial featuring giant man-eating alien plants) on his wedding day.
Yet this show is about so much more than even that amusing level of Doctor Who nerdism. Hadoke spends much of his time on his relationship with his kids, about him desperately trying not to be like his own absent father. Of course, much of this attention is focused on the titular stepson, who happens to be deaf. While this fact mostly inspires some great one-liners about learning sign language, Hadoke is not afraid to pull at the heart-strings too. He’s happy to pause while a silent audience absorbs the poignant fact that his stepson will never hear that iconic Doctor Who theme tune.
Nevertheless, like most kids of his age in 21st century Britain, Hadoke’s stepson is a Doctor Who fan, dressing up in his Matt Smith costume, while inventing sign language to describe Cybermen and their ilk. The young lad’s even showed an increased interest in watching the ‘classic’ (ie, 20th century) Doctor Who on DVD, in the process helping Hadoke reappraise some of his less favourite stories. Yet, while this is great news for Hadoke, it’s not without risks; especially the apparent inability of his new wife to distinguish between a ‘toy’ (anyone else’s sonic screwdriver) and a ‘collector’s item’ (Hadoke’s previously unopened sonic screwdriver).
Funny, yet poignant; imaginative yet with the ability to kick you where it hurts. This is a comedy show that makes you feel as much as you laugh. And those are rare, even in Edinburgh.