“a thoroughly enjoyable show with craftsmanship that you don’t find every day”
Bright, genuinely funny and completely naïve – “Dumbledore Is So Gay” by writer Robert Holtom and director Tom Wright is where Harry Potter meets The Butterfly Effect.
Jack is a young man. Jack (Alex Britt) is a Pottermaniac (and not-so-proud Hufflepuff). Jack is also gay, and has a big crush on his best friend. But life is brutal, especially for young boys with a non-mainstream sexual orientation. At school and at home, he is expected to be someone quite different – or rather, be with someone quite different – therefore, he decides to utilise some Harry Potter magic to change a few things from his past.
The simplicity and minimalism of the production are actually quite impressive. The set consists of three wooden crates which are functionally a couch, a bar, school desks and even a few more things. There are only three actors – Alex Britt as Jack, alongside Max Percy and Charlotte Dowding who play multiple roles from Jack’s life – his best friends, his parents, his bullies, his teacher, his lovers. Britt’s Jack has lots of youthful naivety and charming determination which makes him delightfully relatable for young audiences. Percy and Dowding are both very skilled at making all of their parts quite unique.
Robert Holtom’s witty and poignant writing has some cleverly placed counterpoints that blend more and less serious parts into a harmonious whole. And though this harmonious whole is admittedly utterly naïve, it also remains in accord with Jack’s immature character. One may wonder if use of magical realism isn’t but an excuse for presenting triggering themes in a more digestible way, but it definitely is engaging for the target viewer. Tom Wright’s direction is smooth, clear and dynamic, deftly utilising the very limited resources (and seemingly very limited budget).
It is not a play that will change the world. It is not a play that will set a new standard for LGBTQIA+ theatre. It is, nevertheless, a thoroughly enjoyable show with craftsmanship that you don’t find every day.
“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.