“Punk rock and Rastafarianism rule.”
Anna Marks, Remote Goat ★★★

Substance & Shadow’s latest show Duplicity went down a storm at Exeter’s Bike Shed Theatre last night. Playing to a vocal and appreciative full house the cast swooped energetically through Seventies London with a paean to Punk Rock and a romp round Rastafarianism.

Duplicity comes from the stable of twin stories and true to that tradition uses role and identity swaps as dramatic devices. The show explores ideas of the lucky and unlucky twin, sickness and health, success and failure – but is there a top twin or does brotherly love triumph? Midge Mullin, who played the twins – Tommy and Finbar – with energy and range, may have an answer.

Tommy Kelly flees the fair where he grew up and heads to London with a multicoloured guitar and a bit of talent. London in 1977 is a magnet for fortune seekers, adventurers and anybody wanting to be in the thick of it. He gets spotted by seedy opportunist agent Leonard Silver and his band, Blank Generation, makes it big. Silver provides most of the comedy in the show and his machinations essentially drive the plot. Nathan Simpson, as Silver, eschews subtlety and stomps and swears his way through the role in near authentic punk fashion. Naturally, grimy-suited Silver doesn’t say no to a Blank Generation spot on Top of the Pops and a big hike in his bank balance.

The action is supplemented by some great music and evocative visuals. The fictional band, Blank Generation, is an incarnation of and maybe homage to, The Probes. It’s anybody’s guess which provided the stimulus for Duplicity’s writers – the music of The Probes or the notion of a twin story.

The visual projections give atmosphere and depth to an otherwise stark stage. So too do the female characters, UV (Rachel Milne) and Fabie (Joana Crisostomo). And yet it was all a little too neat. Duplicity provides glimpses of the world of Punk but it lacks the rawness of that characteristic brutal in your face up yours nihilism. The meanderings into Rastafarianism are intriguing and provide a multicultural historical context. But there is no heartfelt roar from the Lion of Judah.

Yet – reggae roots rule and Marcus Garvey rides again. Duplicity revisits and celebrates 07.07.77 – the two sevens clash. Anything is possible. Give it a whirl.

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