The Dreamers at the St James
With a Cobra meeting almost every month now, and the government on the verge of introducing new legislation to tackle extremism, it’s through the prism of a very different conflict that The Dreamers makes its London debut. Written by James Beeny and Gina Georgio (of the British band, Virgin Soldiers), it tells the story of David “Reggie” Salomons, the captain of Third Field Company who drowned at sea on his way to Gallipoli, in an accident involving another British ship.
The set design and narrative style are interesting and unique. The band is on a podium at the back of the stage, telling the story through songs, while the actors sing along and perform the words, capturing the ethos of the time. Projected onto a large screen at the back are images of soldiers marching off to battle, with iconic imagery from the beginning of the 20th century, and celebrities playing key decision-makers from the War Office. There are even elements of Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, with singers telling the story on a battlefield that the British abandoned in late 1915, after 200,000 deaths. Beeny has some musical talent: his composition isn’t bad, and whispers of Costello and Andrew Lloyd Webber occasionally shine through. However, the songs are all similar and have nothing that makes one want to remember the words, or sing along. The passion and energy of the band carry the production, more than anything else. In spite of this, Nicholas Pavely as Captain Salomons is convincing, and the smallest children (especially Kiah Spurle) have exquisite voices.
Whilst he clearly doesn’t want to offend anyone, Beeny is talking to the press, rather than his audience. He takes the middle ground between tabloid opinion, and the left wing, liberal media narrative. In doing this, he patronises his audience. The result is a status quo piece of theatre, which is at best mediocre, at worst vapid, failing to inspire either patriotism or pacifism, or indeed many thoughts or feelings at all. The atmosphere is jolly though, with the amateur cast clearly enjoying themselves, and that in turn is infectious and inspiring.
The Dreamers is on at St James Theatre from 30th June until 11th July, for further information or to book visit here.