Tim Dingle is an extraordinarily clever man. He’ll tell you this himself, of course, but it does also shine through in his set, which is also on as
Clearly a character with a fascinating life story, and a more conventional structure of his life, backwards or forwards, could have carried a much stronger show.
The show is ostensibly based around his exploits as a headteacher, taking the loose form of an assembly, complete with an outdated PowerPoint and anecdotes that never seem to tie into an overall theme (a set piece about Tintin, for example, is largely joke-free and treats the fact that Tintin in the Congo was racist as a revelation, rather than a pretty popular piece of trivia). Bits of the set-up work well; forcing people to raise their hands to heckle is very fun, and he plays with the power dynamic well. You can almost forget that as all this goes on, he’s wearing a full length red gown.
That goes unexplained for a while, and when it does come up, it’s a tad disappointing. From a whimsical, trivia-based jive through various topics, we come to the key event in Dingle’s life – the moment the Daily Mail printed an article which alleged he took drugs and crossdressed. Thus, the gown. For all that Dingle insists he has come to terms with the piece and the massive ramifications it had for him, the ten minutes spent on the article are much angrier and feel unresolved – the room feels uneasy. It’s a long way from jokes about spermatozoa.
Yet it feels like those minutes are the point of the set. This is less about comedy than catharsis. That’s not to say the comedy isn’t there – remember, Tim Dingle is very clever – but the purpose doesn’t seem to be to entertain. The show is much more for him than us, and it’s structured that way – to lead him to his apotheosis, which is not a natural climax for the laughs. Indeed, sometimes it feels like there’s not quite enough material. A crack at the end about the loose ends falls flat. It’s a shame, because he is clearly a character with a fascinating life story, and a more conventional structure of his life, backwards or forwards, could have carried a much stronger show.