My Dad’s Gap Year
Reviewed – 1st February 2019
“Although the dialogue is often a bit wooden, there are flashes of cleverness and adept humour. However, the story is as directionless as its protagonist”
Eighteen-year-old, gay, repressed William (Alex Britt) is gearing up for a gap year of work experience at a marketing firm. But his free-spirit, alcoholic, “try-everything-once” father Dave (Adam Lannon) has other plans for him. Dave surprises William with plane tickets to Thailand. Screw work experience; William needs life experience. William is going to take a proper gap year, and Dave is going with him.
My Dad’s Gap Year is a sleek production by design team Sarah Beaton (set and costume), Derek Anderson (lighting), and Benjamin Winter (sound). The stage is a raised, square platform with a pit in the centre. The cold blue and magenta lights reflect on the sterile white stage. It’s a striking, well-executed aesthetic. Whether it serves the story is another question. I’m not fully convinced it does.
The script, by Tom Wright, explores worthy subjects, including the ways alcoholism affects families, and transgender issues. Although the dialogue is often a bit wooden, there are flashes of cleverness and adept humour. However, the story is as directionless as its protagonist. William’s journey to Thailand is something that’s been forced on him. He’s passive. There’s nothing to feel invested in, because there’s nothing he’s trying to do. Dave is equally adrift. They party, they meet people, they try new things – William learns to loosen up, and a twist is revealed about Dave – but it’s a scattering of scenes that don’t feel like they’re adding up to anything. There are big moments of confrontation and melodrama, but because they’re not formed from a building story, we end up watching from a place of detachment.
The problem with audience investment is further exacerbated by the fact that William is unsympathetic. He’s a pious, judgmental, “disrespectful little brat,” as his mother finally calls him. He chastises his mum for not prioritising his needs over her own. He’s abusive and transphobic toward Dave’s Thai girlfriend. Because we aren’t given anything to compensate for William’s unlikability, it’s difficult to care what happens to him.
The two non-English characters rely heavily on cultural tropes: the sexualised, non-monogamous, Spanish Matias (Max Percy), and the Thai “ladyboy” Mae (Victoria Gigante), who speaks in stereotypical broken English. Because Wright doesn’t seem to have any insight into the cultures he’s invoked, his use of them as background for a narrative about a white family feels careless.
At the moment, My Dad’s Gap Year is a pool of characters, backstories, and ideas. If Wright can find the plot, the play will be much stronger.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography by Pamela Raith
My Dad’s Gap Year
Park Theatre until 23rd February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: