My Dad's Gap Year
Alexandra Da Silva and Neil Eckersley in association with MC Productions and Park Theatre
Park Theatre (Park 90)
William is eighteen and taking a gap year before university. He’s gay but still virginal. Dad Dave, who’s come to terms with his son’s orientation, though not easily, is an alcoholic and out of work after crashing company cars and calling his boss the c word. Mum Cath has moved out, fed up with Dave’s drinking, but she’s got William a job in the marketing company where she works.
That’s not the way Dave sees a gap year and, by a ruse, he gets them both on a plane to Thailand to do it properly “travelling, devouring the real world, popping your cherry… a different bloke every night with willies from around the world”. This dad has come a long way!
On the poolside, Will meets a Matias, a good-looking architect, half Spanish, half Thai, and does go a bit wild, while Dave finds himself with a self-styled Thai trans female who perhaps may be able to stop him drinking. Back home it was Cath who had always sorted out problems but where is she now when things go wrong?
This is a riotous comedy with a serious subtext. Don’t ask where Dave gets the cash from to finance this big adventure or why William suddenly goes along with it, accept that and the rest is entirely logical and Rikki Beadle-Blair’s fast-moving production draws very honest performances from a strong cast.
Played in-the-round on a raised platform surrounding a square pit (a cache place for props and quick costume stages) under a canopy sky that reflects lighting changes, there is no conventional scenery. Action leaps straight from one location to the next one, UK and Thailand linked by chats on mobiles that sometimes serve to share feelings. That there are no physical phones is typical of this uncluttered presentation, the actors creating the change of location with occasional help from the lighting.
Alex Britt’s William gets increasingly lively as he learns to let his hair down, he doesn’t over do the charm and if Max Percy’s Matias at first seems a smooth, gay Casanova, it turns out he is gentle and reliable. Victoria Gigante is touchingly true as Thai Mae and Michelle Collins as Cathy captures the spirit of a caring mother determined to live her own life while still deeply attached to her husband.
Adam Lannon’s Dad Dave may seem over-loud and a bit larger than life but that’s absolutely right for a character fuelled by vodka or the wrong kind of six pack whose apparent lack of sensitivity hides his own hurt and who sincerely wants to make things right for his gay son.
Tom Wright’s play and Rikki Beadle-Blair’s production are in-yer-face funny and full of vitality, based on realities that make the plot plausible. It runs ninety minutes without an interval and I would happily have had more of it.