The naked arse and abs on the marketing material and on the cover of the play text don’t belong to the actors in this production. Presumably they were cast after the publicity deadline, so stand-ins were required. The gays like topless twinks, don’t they, so any pecs will do the job, right? It’s sad that this crude and demeaning strategy continues to pervade the presentation of gay theatre productions, and that prominent voices in the queer community are content to collude in the ongoing objectification of hot male bodies in exchange for easy box office.
Anyone expecting the ribald farce the poster hints at may be a bit disappointed by the relatively chaste and clothed reality of My Dad’s Gap Year. But they’ll get a perfectly decent comedy-drama centred around a fractured family trying clumsily to figure out what their future holds.
18-year-old Will (Alex Britt) is gay but sensible, which winds up his boozy dad Dave (Adam Lannon), who longs for Will to be a bit less buttoned-up and more like him. Mum Cath (Michelle Collins) has had enough of Dave and moved out – a separation that Will naively hopes to reverse.
Will initially plans to spend his year out before uni working at Cath’s capitalist corporation, but Dave manages to persuade his son to ditch the suit and tie in favour of a trip to Thailand, where they can bond over shagging around.
Dave wastes no time getting it on with trans woman Mae (Victoria Gigante), whilst Will quickly acquires his first ever boyfriend, in the shape of confident young architect Matias (Max Percy).
The strength of this production is in its cast, who succeed in making all five characters interesting and easy to empathise with. Even if I wasn’t quite convinced by man-child Dave’s single-minded hedonism, Lannon’s connection with Britt feels honest and is genuinely touching. Tom Wright’s script doesn’t play favourites between the parents, and Collins’ Cath has an equal share of her son’s affections. Britt does an excellent job conveying Will’s uptight nature and his childlike desire to see his parents reunited.
The play contains a healthy smattering of very funny lines, though also about the same number of rather obvious and/or try-hard gags. I have to report that the press night audience were extremely supportive and vocal, laughing on cue in all the right places.
A tragic plot shift halfway through brings with it a satisfying elevation of the dramatic stakes, but elsewhere the narrative is less skilfully structured. Will flips from ultra-cautious to drug-guzzling whore in the blink of an eye, a frightening accident goes unexplained, and the ending, although powerful, feels like it hasn’t been fully thought through.
Go see My Dad’s Gap Year for quality acting, some good laughs and an engaging story. Just don’t expect the titillation the poster implies.
Writer: Tom Wright
Director: Rikki Beadle-Blair
Producers: Alexandra Da Silva and Neil Eckersley in association with MC Productions and Park Theatre
Playing until: February 23