Dream On tells the story of wide-eyed Rochdale lad Paul (Bradley Cross), on holiday at a Welsh campsite with his overbearing mother when he meets wayward Londoner George (Joe Gosling). Mutually intrigued, the spark between them soon turns into something more. But when the end of the holiday comes, will the promises they make to meet the next year be anything but a fantasy? The romance between the boys has the right balance of teenage apprehension and sexual chemistry, and is thoroughly convincing.
What is inescapable is just what clichéd territory we are stumbling into with Dream On. Coming of age in the 1980s, holiday romance, disapproving parents, vices to overcome – it’s all here. Whether writer/ director Lloyd Eyre-Morgan wanted to deliberately tackle these overfamiliar plot devices in his own way or whether it was just the story he wanted to tell was unclear. But despite all that, something elevated this play. Maybe it was that straightforward storytelling – if it hadn’t had a happy ending I would have felt genuinely short-changed. The audience ended up caring about these characters and wanting things to work out for them.
Joe Gosling is the one to watch throughout, putting in a brave and exciting performance. His brash, yet vulnerable George has an energy that fills the theatre and understandably bewitches Paul. Bradley Cross’s confidence increases with his character. Providing the laughs is tart-with-a-heart Angharad, a fun performance from Scarlet Johanssen lookalike Mairi Macfarlane. The ‘grown ups’, Janet Bamford as grumpy mum Denise, and Mark Hill as nice guy Norman, offer a loving network for the teens as they navigate their path. There’s a quick segment in which Denise worries about the ‘gay plague’, it being set in the Eighties and all, but after that quick acknowledgement, the lovers are accepted without issue. Whether their coming out was glossed over, or it was just nice for it to not be a big deal is a question for the LGBT audience rather than here.
Although Dream On is simplistic and somewhat obvious, it is a sweet, touching and nicely observed piece with characters the audience really end up getting behind.