DREAMBOATS AND PETTICOATS
by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran.
Royal and Derngate (Derngate auditorium) To 27 November 2010.
Mon-at 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 November.
Cheap music extraordinarily potent again
So this is popular theatre. While some of us have had a Royally murderous autumn with Patricia Highsmith and John Webster, a mere foyer away the Derngate’s been shaking, twisting and shouting. Dreamboats’ particular angle is nostalgia – opening each act in an attic, with granddad reminiscing over his old guitar.
Soon it’s back to Essex 1961, age of innocence. Posters and record-labels surround the brightly-lit scene as grandad’s younger self battles acne, parental restrictions and hormones, ignoring studious Laura for flashy Sue. Who has her eye, and anything else she can, on Norman, the foreigner from Kent who strides in combing greased-up hair and prominent ego.
As Norman’s image is demolished, Bobby eventually starts appreciating Laura, talented musician and queen of the middle-eight, when her 16th birthday party releases her from school uniform, glasses and brace.
Sweet sixteen. Cue any number of songs. Which is what the script’s there for – a string to sing along. Sitcom experts Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran do the job with high efficiency, while director Bob Tomson’s experience with actor-musicians is evident throughout. Everything spins along so easily, you don’t think how lumpy it could be with less expertise.
Mikes clasped to heads, like lizards out in the sun, the company’s energy and skill pound through the theatre. Not a word pierces the period veneer, nor is it meant to (a cheery advert for Prestatyn hasn’t been defaced like the one in Philip Larkin’s ‘Sunny Prestatyn’).
It’s not Guys and Dolls; nothing can disguise the truth of Laura’s explanation that pop singles are built out of four basic chords. And the lovers don’t visit Havana, just take a church youth trip to Southend.
But they form the tracks of many people’s youth. Dreamboats offers a summer holiday in the days when Cliff was really young, when girls in swirling skirts look for the right guy (their feminine delicacy clear deception; some of these chicks hoist hefty brass along with the chaps). And when the encores bring permission, the attentive audience is on its collective feet in orgiastic delight. Four chords, it seems, is harmony enough.
Phil/Older Bobby: Oliver Beamish.
Daisy: Claire McGarahan.
Andy: Greg Last.
Richard: Alan Howell.
Colin: Chris Coxon.
Barry: Charlie Wade.
Derek: Tristan Pate.
Bobby: Josh Capper.
Ray: Wayne Smith.
Laura: Daaniella Bowen.
Sue: Francesca Jackson.
Donna: Emily Goodenough.
Norman: Jonathan Bremner.
Frank/Slugger/Compère: Jem Dobbs.
Eric: Glen Joseph.
Jeremy: Michael Paver.
Babs: Jessica Dyas.
Director: Bob Tomson.
Designer: Sean Cavanagh.
Lighting: Mark Howett.
Sound: Ben Harrison.
Musical Arrangers: Keith Strachan, David Clement-Smith.
Musical Supervisor: Keith Strachan.
Musical Director: Greg Last.
Dance Captain: Glen Joseph.
Choreographer: Carole Todd.
Costume: Sean Cavanagh, Brigid Guy.