Dramarama is now available to rent or buy.
Thinking back to when I was 17, one thing is clear; my friends were my world, and our day trips to London, small cosy house parties and trips to the cinema were full of laughter, debate and joy. However, nothing is more certain than change as we grow older, and friendships are not free from these shifts over time.
For many of us, the most significant change comes as we pack our bags and head to college or University, the old world of our school days, bedroom dreams, and our fight for independence suddenly transformed. I remember the feeling of being torn in two as I longed to leave the home town that now felt like a prison while fearing I would lose the small circle of friends who were my comfort blanket. I remember telling myself that my friends would always be there and that we would always meet again. But, in truth, apart from a few meetings and days out, we all slowly drifted apart. The glue that had held us together (the town of our birth) was now no more than a distant memory as we built new lives and embraced an exciting future.
The friends I made at University stayed with me, and while we now live in separate parts of the country most of us keep in touch. But, the older I get, the more I find my mind drifting back to the friends I had as a teenager and the innocence, optimism and fun of pretending to be worldly and wise. In truth, we were all still hiding, discovering ourselves, our wants, desires and beliefs. Jonathan Wysocki’s Dramarama takes you back to those confusing, exciting and emotional days before University, with a beautiful exploration of endings and beginnings.
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The year is 1994, and the place is California. As the summer is drawing to an end and Autumn nips at its heels, 17-year-old Gene (Nick Pugliese) stands wearing nothing but a pair of white boxer shorts in his bedroom. Gene’s thoughts are all of a jumble as he prepares for a final murder mystery slumber party with his high school friends and drama club peers. On arrival, Gene finds the afternoon’s dramatic events in full swing. Here the hostess Rose (Barlow), is dressed as Miss Faversham, while the quiet Claire (Suri) is dressed as Lewis Caroll’s Alice. Meanwhile, Gene’s best friend Oscar (Greetham) is dressed as Sherlock Holmes, and the sassy Ally (Kay) is dressed in a flowing red gown.
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Gene had planned on being a pirate, but as he arrives he is wearing braces, a cravat and eyeliner. Rose quickly scowls and questions why he has come as Dr Jekyll. Gene opts not to state that Dr Jekyll fits his current state of mind; after all, tonight, Gene plans to introduce his friends to Mr Hyde as he finally comes out of the closet. However, there’s one major problem, his friends are all religious, and their lives are held in a naive bubble of dos and don’ts, one Gene has begun to grow weary of as he accepts his own needs. But when Gene’s older, more streetwise friend JD (Zak Henri) unexpectedly arrives delivering pizza, the group find their loyalties and beliefs tested like never before.
Dramarama quickly establishes its central characters through a series of friendships that feel believable and full of unspoken love. The complex relationship between Gene and Oscar sits at the heart of the narrative, where a simmering sexual tension is immediately apparent. Here Gene and Oscar’s high jinks and wrestling, born in boyhood, is now an uneasy practice of avoiding discussion and deeper emotional connection. Meanwhile, every young person bats away the adult world as it threatens to invade the party, with nobody willing or able to give up the inner child still firmly at play.
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Wysocki’s film is at its most fascinating and engaging as each character holds on tightly to the self-created world of safety and imagination that keeps them secure from bullying, judgement and popularity contests. Here their hidden fears, doubts and insecurities sit just below the surface of every conversation and interaction as the emerging adult screams to be set free from the cocoon of childhood. Throughout Dramarama, each of Wysocki’s characters debates how much to reveal as new beginnings tap on their shoulder. The humour, play-acting, and games are mere diversions from the discussions they long to have as they finally say goodbye to one chapter and hello to another.
Dramarama achieves something rare in transporting each viewer back to their own teenage experiences through a tender, engaging, yet highly complex movie. Here the final scenes of Dramarama are bound in the emotion of those bittersweet days when teenage life ended and young adult life began. While for me, those heady days before University involved a lot less religion and a lot more alcohol, I found parts of my own teenage self in each of Dramarama’s delightful characters.