Underbelly, Cowgate – Delhi Belly
Maria Telnikoff is a natural-born entertainer, and luckily, when her best friend Zoe suggested that she should “make a big song and dance” all about her dad, she decided to follow her advice.
We first meet Maria in 2017 when she’s about to tell Zoe that her dad has now been a woman for many years. Despite having known each other for a while, Maria has never mentioned it before – not because she openly lied about it, but because she made a conscious effort to avoid the topic, for fear of being rejected rather than out of shame. An oversized tape-measure (like the ones used by children to track their growth) with years marked instead of sizes is a clever and effective trick to skip through the timeline and we are swiftly taken back to 2004. It’s Maria’s first year of school and her teacher can’t get her head around the fact that the woman she has just spoken to is Maria’s dad, not her mother.
Time flies by as Maria learns the meaning of shame, how ignorance makes people mean and the backwards structure of gender agreement in romance languages – “c’est MA père!”, she shouts to a despotic French teacher. In all these years, there’s been only one instance in which she opened up about her father with a classmate, but the recipient of the disclosure didn’t quite appreciate its importance and disappointingly went around spreading rumours. Having then internalised the fact that people wouldn’t be able to understand, Maria just stopped talking about it.
A tongue-in-cheek playlist ranging from Boney M’s Daddy Cool to Mozart’s Requiem complements the uplifting tone of a performance that is playful but also deadly serious. It is clear throughout that this is a challenging autobiographical journey that has left the artist with more than one emotional scar.
Smartly using comedy and clowning to criticise the impositions of heteronormativity and how contradictory they are in modern society, she sneaks in snippets of sadness when we least expect them. From emojis of fathers wearing a hat and a moustache to blue-clad Father’s Day gifts and cards that her parent could never identify with. Much to our enjoyment, she also seems to be having a great time on stage, while giving everyone a heart-warming lesson on acceptance.
Written, Directed and Produced by: Maria Telnikoff
My Dad Wears a Dress plays at EdFringe 2023 until 27 August, 11:25am, at Underbelly, Cowgate. Further information and bookings here.