Faced with living in a time of recession, climate change, hoodies and anti-social behaviour, Marcus Markou’s Ordinary Dreams explores just how the everyman should keep managing to get out of bed in the morning in an age that could hardly be described as golden.
Thirtysomethings Penny and Miles have just had their first baby, but what should be a time of celebration is severely tainted by Miles’s new addiction to constantly evaluating the world around him. Suddenly every piece of broken glass or tossed aside beer can is a devilish entity set out to harm his son, the antisocial ‘feral yobs’ next door with surprisingly good taste in music are set to corrupt his vulnerable child, and his irrelevant job and daily hellish commute now exist simply to reaffirm his failure as a man and father. Meanwhile his best-friend Dan has seemingly changed overnight from northern working-class hero to sincere and emotionally mature recovering alcoholic under the influence of his annoyingly perky new-age American girlfriend.
Falling into a pit of despair and anxiety, it is not long before Miles makes the transformation from ‘innocently’ making notes on ASBO kids to help build his non-existent case against the world, to taking to a wheelchair as a result of psychosomatic paralysis, wearing a stab vest and carrying an eBay-bought mace. As the imagined horrors of suburban London take their hold, Miles’s life begins to exist in a parallel alternative reality as he fantasises about becoming the middle-class hero, a bourgeois fundamentalist and rock and roll prime minister, leaving Penny and Dan in despair.
Miles (James Lance), self-deprecating, cynical and un-PC provides much of the comedy in this contemporary crisis drama. His long-suffering wife Penny (Imogen Slaughter), is a well-spoken, capable – if not a little aloof – pragmatist, whose togetherness is tainted only by the fact that she too is a recovering alcoholic, causing much jealousy from Miles as her and Dan (Adrian Bower) slope off to their mysterious AA meetings three times a week. In contrast, this delights Layla (Sia Berkley), who is thrilled to have found both a boyfriend and a project in down-to-earth Dan.
Miles’s cutting remarks and over-exaggerated observations create the understated comedy in Markou’s play, while the fantasy scenes rely on a more obvious form of humour as we witness women falling over themselves to be near his middle-class revolutionary persona, with Layla as his sexy assistant, Penny as the previous PM, and Dan as a Russell Brand-type commentator.
As Miles’s life falls apart even in his fantasy, the place of the middleman today is put into question. With hoodies at one end of the scale and greedy bankers at the other, Markou asks where the rest of us fit into in our society and shows us exactly how we can survive a meltdown with middle-class flair.