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My Dad’s Gap Year by Tom Wright at Park Theatre | Review

My Dad's Gap Year Cast - Photo by Michael Wharley
My Dad’s Gap Year Cast – Photo by Michael Wharley

Dave (Adam Lannon) is going through some sort of mid-life crisis, while son William (Alex Britt) is content to spend his gap year before commencing university study earning a living. A large part of me agreed with Dave – there are better opportunities out there for youngsters like William than just running the rat race for a year. Dave, not having worked for a while, is on a computer games console, while William is dressed for work: that the son comes across as more responsible than his own father is rather striking. More than that, William’s mum Cath (Michelle Collins) has left Dave, and somehow, although Dave is not holding down a job, and a disproportionate amount of his income goes to feed an alcohol addiction, he still has the cash to book last minute tickets for him and William to visit Thailand.

It is there that William comes across Matias (Max Percy), an architect with an international upbringing. Young love being what it is, it isn’t long before William’s British reticence fades. This is why his father took him to Thailand (that is, to have a good time and get some bedroom activity, and preferably, at some point, both at the same time) – but Dave finds love too, in the form of a local “trans female” (a term she uses to describe herself), Mae (Victoria Gigante). Nobody comes out of this narrative totally unblemished – even allowing for so-called cultural differences, Mae still has some anger management issues. Even Drunk Dave (as I ought to have called him from the start) has concerns about Matias leading William to take recreational drugs.

Without being preachy, the play seems to assert that it isn’t necessarily as straightforward as some big bad wolf leading a vulnerable teenager astray: William is fully capable of independent thought and moral judgement. Then again, is he? When a critical incident occurs, all he can do is panic and call his mother for help. The narrative as a whole is highly credible – it’s not exactly the happy ending of a feel-good musical, and the disappointment etched on everyone else’s faces as Dave still can’t see the wood for the trees is palpable. But the ending is a little too rushed, relative to the steady pace of the rest of the play (which fits, as father and son are in holiday mode), and conclusions are too easily reached.

The set is kept simple – for the most part, the only props are bottles of drink, leaving different scenes to be portrayed by a combination of costume changes, subtle variations in lighting, and the dialogue. There’s a pit in the middle of the stage in this production, which looks impressive at first glance, but with hindsight, it doesn’t really serve much purpose as far as the storyline is concerned.

The f-word is overused until it becomes conversationally redundant, and while William is a plausibly “disrespectful little brat”, as Cath calls him, the trade-off is that it becomes difficult to have much empathy for someone so unsympathetic. Mae’s personal ambitions are somewhat relatable (even if the journey in which she embarks in order to realise them is rather less so).

Some good acting and direction mean the production punches above its weight, and there are some witty punchlines to enjoy. But there isn’t a huge amount that goes on, and ultimately, little if anything new is offered in a play that demonstrates that if someone looks after themselves, they will be in a better position to look after others. Secure your own mask first before assisting someone else, as the flight safety instructions say. Or as Polonius told his son Laertes in Act I Scene III of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “…to this own self be true”.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Seriously William, you’re eighteen and you’re gay, for Christ’s sake. You’re meant to swim against the tide. A proper gap year is all about traveling. Seeing the world. Popping your cherry. This is our chance to start living. Me and you.

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 to lose his virginity. Written by Tom Wright and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair (MBE), My Dad’s Gap Year is a wickedly funny and heartfelt story based on true events.

Alexandra Da Silva and Neil Eckersley in association with MC Productions and Park Theatre present the World Premiere of

My Dad’s Gap Year
By Tom Wright

Directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair
Cast includes Michelle Collins, Adam Lannon, Alex Britt, Victoria Gigante and Max Percy

Plays: 30 Jan – 23 Feb 2019


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