Being a Dad, Just Festival at St John's, Review

Edinburgh Festival review
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Strange Town
Steve Small (director), Duncan Kidd (writer), Kai Peacock (Researcher)
Bryan/Boyfriend (Jack Sinclair), Paul (Fraser Macrae), Ross/Job Centre staff member (Mark O'Neill), Gary/Pauls' Friend (Harvey Reid), Justone/Class leader/Doctor/Siobhan (Lauri Young)
Running time

At the end of last year, a young father (Matt Coyne) entered the viral world of online with hilariously honest revelations on the reality of childbirth and the first three months of fatherhood.

It’s fitting that this story was all over social in the lead up to the YEAR OF THE DAD, organised in partnership with Fathers Network Scotland and the Scottish Government to rally together services and employers to support dads by embracing family-friendly, inclusive practices that reflect the importance of fathers in child development.

Enter ‘Being a Dad' – a home-grown production developed by Fathers Network Scotland and Strange Town productions, written by Duncan Kidd and directed by Steve Small, which is part of the Just Festival, whose ethos aims to challenge perceptions, celebrate differences and promote respectful dialogue.

This short drama jumps back and forth in time, reflecting the lived experiences, challenges and fears faced by fathers – from the accusatory nurse who assumes a young lad can’t feed his child to the struggle of balancing work and access – as well as their hopes for the future, with a particular focus on disadvantaged young fathers in Scotland through the central protagonist Bryan (Jack Sinclair) and seemingly polar opposite Prison Officer Paul (Fraser McCrane).

Rather than a clinical look at statistics and research, Kidd’s script focuses on the everyday, echoing countless stories of modern fatherhood, highlighting the traditional stereotype of father as breadwinner and disciplinarian no longer speaks to society, with fathers coming in all shapes and sizes, showcased in various vignettes highlighting fathers as single or married, employed or the stay-at-home parent, gay or straight and adoptive fatherhood.

This is a succession of scenes as opposed to a honed narrative with a firm sense of direction, with Steve Small allowing the actors to interact directly with the audience, inviting them to empathise, disagree or question challenges facing young fathers and how they can be overcome with knowledge, support and courage on the part of individuals to know and use their voice - a highlight moment being a touching analogy of being a penguin amongst polar bears delivered gorgeously by Ross (Mark O’Neill).

The transitions could have been strengthened with quicker light state changes, as well as music or audio bookmarking the key explorations in each of the scenes; however everyone involved should be proud of producing a real slice of the reality of young people engaging with contemporary issues and offering their own, very clear views on the subject, which Strange Town as one of Edinburgh’s largest young companies always excel at.

Being a Dad is on Wed 17, Fri 19 & Sat 20 August as part of the Just Festival, 7.45pm.