Review: The Dreamers (St James’s Theatre) JohnnyFox July 7, 2015 Musicals, Reviews, Theatre The Dreamers might have fared better if it hadn’t been billed as a musical. It is hard to find a category for it – part centenary celebration, part video documentary, part community theatre, part contemporary oratorio about British participation in the battle of Gallipoli but since they don’t hand out Off West End awards for Worthiness, it’s not surprising critics dismissed it. In the absence of a proper cast list or background information (the production team didn’t think it worth giving journos the souvenir brochure, a move almost guaranteed to produce disappointing reviews since everyone else in the theatre was fanning themselves with its glossy pages) you can’t name individuals but the young amateur cast from all over Kent who worked for twelve months to bring this together were as well-drilled and well-sung as any final year of drama students. I’ve been to Gallipoli. Without wishing to disrespect the 21,000 Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives there, ye Gods it’s boring – you hike for an hour to see one stone memorial and a pine tree. We went to the cinema till it was time to return to the bus. And, thanks to that Mel Gibson movie I had no idea it was fought by any but ANZAC troops – so this story, about Reggie someone and his platoon of youngsters who sailed from Devonport was initially interesting until his narrative was so disappeared under ineffectual musical and theatrical effects his last name might as well have been Perrin. It’s the video narration that’s the most bizarre – some of it is random actors telling the story of the Dardanelles campaign, others are intended to represent the generals and politicians who steered its disastrous course. As the central figure, Sir Tim Rice has been directed to glance regularly to left and right to ‘involve’ the others who are speaking – except something clearly went wrong with the recordings and they don’t reciprocate so he just looks as though he’s trying to cross an impossibly busy road. For two hours. Actually, ‘random’ doesn’t being to cover the actors: this has to be the only bill which includes Amanda Redman, Michael Buerk, Gene Hunt from Life on Mars and that woman who married Boycie in Only Fools and Horses. The music is interesting in a folksy-to-soft-rock way and the band, led by composers Gina Georgio and James Beeny, are very competent – you’d certainly hire them for a wedding but you probably wouldn’t lend them the main house of your theatre for three weeks unless you were St James’s development director Lady Lucy French whose great-grandfather Field Marshal Sir John French was commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Forces at the start of the First World War. Well, until 1915 when he was sent home and replaced by the disastrous Sir Douglas Haig who didn’t believe in tanks or machine guns. Despite the diligence of his cast, Mark Piper’s staging is breathtakingly predictable, lots of young men winding their puttees in underlit trenches and women striding about in crisply starched uniforms representing the professions they’ve taken over while the men are fighting. There are lots of neatly-shaped tableaux, and an anthemic finale and if you could find a category for it or a thread on which to hang your engagement, you might think it quite affecting. But a musical? No.