Close to the wildly popular Inbetweeners/American Pie territory, it's surprising that the brief burst of freedom betwixt anxiety over A-level results and anxiety over university debts has not been mined more by stage and screen. That didn't stop Tim Gilvin, Patrick Stockbridge, Dan John and Ferghal Crowley from making Gap Year A Musical Comedy and guess what? It's almost as much fun as a gap year itself!
Tom (Joe Hinds) isn't sure whether to go to uni, isn't sure about what he wants to do with his life and isn't sure about big scary things like, er... flying without Mum and Dad and girls and, yes, pretty much everything in the big, bad, exciting world of grown-ups. Off to Australia to find himself, he finds Holly (Bethan McCann) at the airport and learns the ropes of backpacking and the truism that everyone he'll meet is either trying to find something, or hide something. This odd couple fall in with even odder companions: cheerleaders Candice (Denise Goff) and Katie (Kate Brennan); and posh boy Gideon (Glynn Jones) - a teenage Boris Johnson. Under the very hazy guidance of local bogan Brad (Luke Nicholson), they set off round the hot, hostile island. They meet plenty of characters along the way, and some of the party grow closer, while others drift apart - growing up happens very fast in a gap year.
Though the acting and singing is inevitably a little uneven with so young a cast (two are still at university), there's a real rapport between them. Joe Hinds is winningly naive as Tom and Bethan McCann convinces as she understands him (and herself) more as their relationship grows. Denise Goff and Kate Brennan have a lot of fun bickering as the cheerleaders and do an excellent turn or two in additional cameo roles. Luke Nicholson's amorous air steward isn't entirely unexpected, but carried off well and Glynn Jones' background in stand-up is evident in some very well-timed gags. The songs are consistently catchy and witty and played wonderfully well by a band jammed into a space that Ryanair might consider a bit pokey. Heck, even the villains are pretty decent really.
While there's nothing too original in the script and a few familiar targets get a familiar skewering, Gap Year is a lot of fun and entertains from start to finish. And, though it's unapologetically played for laughs (and there are plenty), on my way home, I found myself wondering what would happen to Tom and Holly when Tom went off to uni and Holly eventually came home. Gap Year II The Sequel is something I'd like to see - and that's as good a testament as any to this feelgood musical comedy that scores plenty of UCAS points.
Read more about Gap Year by clicking here.