Review: My Dad's Gap Year
Cast of My Dad's Gap Year - photo c Michael Wharley 2018
Cath - Michelle Collins
Dave - Adam Lannon
William - Alex Britt
Mae - Victoria Gigante
Matias - Max Percy
This is the story of Dave; a dad in mid-life freefall who takes his repressed, gay, teenage son William on a wild adventure to Thailand.
Written by Tom Wright and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair, My Dad's Gap Year is a wickedly funny and heartfelt story based on true events.
Gay love, straight love, trans love, buddy-love, drinking games and beer bellies.
Fasten your seat belts, it's gonna be a mad one!
Note: this production contains explicit language, references to drug use and scenes of sexual nature.
Two post-show talks a week will be held in the space on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
These will be chaired by either director Rikki Beadle-Blair or playwright Tom Wright and will have a different focus each week with varying guests.
I suspect the very last thing most gap year students would want to do is take their dad with them to explore the mysteries and offerings of the big wide world.
Not that there's anything actually wrong with a bit of bonding between father and son (or daughter for that matter) nor even going on an extended expedition abroad together.
But a gap year is about ... finding yourself?
And maybe that's something you have to do on your own.
Playwright Tom Wright saw obvious comic potential in the unusual idea of a father and son going off together on a (kind of) gap year experience - and it is a neat concept ripe for milking, especially comedically.
Mr Wright also saw some comic and dramatic mileage in a form of role reversal.
So, take a student, who might be expected to be rolling-in the worse for wear for drink after clubbing-away the night into the early hours, playing computer games all day and generally lacking motivation, and imbue a parent with those traits instead.
It's dad, Dave, here who is a lazy reprobate who spends his time swilling down beer and vodka and staring at a screen all day, whereas 18 year-old, gay son William is focused and geared-up for some post-exam work experience in marketing prior to heading-off to uni, and has no intention of 'wasting his time' on trivial pursuits.
That's the basic starting point.
OK, fast forward a bit and William gets a call at work from dad - he's at the airport with two tickets to Thailand, passports in hand.
No prior planning or any of that nonsense - it's a spur of the moment thing, so, obviously, William has to join him and they jet off to Bangkok together.
Issues like money, clothes and such don't seem to enter into the equation, and that's pretty much the routine right the way through the play.
But we can forgive a few omissions in the practicalities department in the interests of dramatic license.
Gay, but naive and inexperienced to the point that one imagines he's spent most of his life to date living in a monastery, William has his eyes quickly opened to what gay life can entail once ensconced in Thailand.
We're provided with pretty explicit details about aspects of gay life as William meets and forms a romantic attachment with 30 year-old architect, Matias, who introduces William to drugs, saunas and the like.
Sara Beaton's abstract set design features a raised acting area surrounding a lower level that looks something akin to a grave - which might be an appropriate metaphor given that we first find Dave in this sunken area, toying with empty beer cans, as we enter the auditorium.
And that introductory scene gets expanded later in the play as we start to learn more about Dave who certainly seems to be an alcoholic and, in a long statement near the end, points us to his childhood as the point where it started.
So maybe this play is about parents inadvertently (or even deliberately) pushing their children into situations that potentially cause adverse effects, like introducing them to alcohol, or taking gap years when their offspring are not necessarily ready for those experiences.
Intermittently funny, but not consistently so, My Dad's Gap Year flounders in making plain its true intent and purpose, leaving uncertainty - at least for me - about it's big message.
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