Pros: The children of the cast shine, and this production might be best suited for a young audience.
Cons: A watered-down, low energy production with a misguided script.
Over the past year, London’s theatre scene has been inundated with productions centred around the Great War. With 2014 marking WWI’s centennial, the theme was more than appropriate, and many productions took the opportunity to reflect on this world-changing event in unique and successful ways. I have been moved and engaged by many of the WWI-centric productions I’ve been privileged to see this year, but sadly I can’t say that The Dreamers was one of them.
The Dreamers attempts to be a formulaic musical following the true life story of British Captain Solamons, who sacrifices himself for his men at Gallipoli. However, a lack of clear character, narrative, and energy made the show unfortunately a difficult one to sit through. The cast of thirty-or-so seemed to perform the entire musical halfway, never fully committing to their roles or their musical performances, and only some of this can be blamed on the bland lyrics and repetitive score. A lack of set does little to help the play seem rooted in any kind of reality – we got a Brechtian mishmash of live music, montage, and multimedia production that distracted from the already watery plot.
I was alarmed by the play’s obsession with the glory of war and simultaneous complete side-step of the tragedies of war. Violence is never depicted, and fear is treated like an offence. A poppy score and white-washed, Disney-esque cast only added to the somewhat disturbing sense that the play had rewritten history.
The production used a six-piece live band on stage, and the tactic was interesting, but personally I think it did nit help the production’s overall lack of emotion and energy. The band, The Virgin Soldier’s indie-rock sound was ill-fitting the the subject matter and created distance rather than provided an interesting twist on WWI-themed shows.
Even as a generally optimistic and at the very least pragmatic and open-minded reviewer, I found it very difficult to find something I liked about the play. I will say that The Dreamers’ strengths were its youngest cast members, perhaps because theirs was the only believable naiveté in an otherwise unconvincing sugar-coated production. In fact, the show might best be suited for schools as a supplement to history for very young students who don’t have the capacity to face the horrific tragedy that the war was. But for an audience full of adults, at least for this adult, the play was offensive in its inability to capture the struggle of war and choice to instead, dumb down a historical landmark until it lost any semblance of human experience.
Authors: James Beeny and Gina Georgio
Producer: Runner Bean Ltd
Running Until: 11 July 2015
Booking Link: https://www.stjamestheatre.co.