Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Of Mice’s show begins with a father and son on a camping trip. It’s a scenario that is riddled with underlying tension. Despite the jovial attitude of the dad, something seems… off.

The dad then begins telling a story based around a family whose lineage is entirely male – this is due to a deal that one of the original members (a Cossack) made with a witch. However, in exchange for an all-male lineage, the witch cursed his family to terrible father-son relationships. It’s a novel idea, and one that Matt and Ollie Are Dads tackles with great comedic effect.

There’s some really excellent storytelling here – in fact, it might initially be mistaken for an off-piste children’s show. However, despite the engaging rhyming and props, it is definitely not for kids. There’s swearing and decidedly adult themes peppered throughout (sex, drugs, the whole shebang).

The story moves along at breakneck speed, with amusing rhymes thrown in while the cast performs set changes. The set itself is fairly sparse, but the staging is clever and makes the most of the space the performers have – there’s a particularly absurd scene involving an armchair and some tea. It’s delightfully whimsical but doesn’t get sidetracked in its own weirdness; the sketch format is also useful in this regard because it keeps the audience guessing and keeps the story moving along nicely.

Matt and Ollie Are… Dads! is a heartwarming show that is surprisingly poignant in between the laughs, exploring the harmful cycle of toxic masculinity and bad communication that’s passed down through the generations without being too on the nose. And what’s more, it’s got genuine comedic insight into the relationship many of us share with our dads –  even if it gets too close to the bone sometimes.