Graham Wyles, Stage Talk Magazine ★★★
All sorts of writers have been drawn to the Punk era, from poets to sociologists. It has the appealing characteristic of appearing to suddenly start and then almost as suddenly go into a decline – the music and outlook that is. It has a kind of clarity: it came out of and appealed to a particular demographic of disaffected youth yet had as its cheerleaders a number of very exciting and supposedly iconoclastic groups. As is usually the case, many claims are made about the game changing effects of such movements. Midge and Rosie Mullin’s play takes an interesting slant on the period and finds that along with the hope and excitement there was a good dose of the same old same old. The tension between dream, expectation and reality is used to hang a tale of aspiration, identity, authenticity and principle.
The play covers a lot of ground in its one act, all of which adds to the intensity of mood we might expect with a punk theme and director, Rosie Mullin, has done a good in keeping the disparate themes from becoming a jumble. At the same time the writers have cleverly plotted their play with an eye to the kind of venues it will show at. Dialogue is mixed with monologue delivered directly to the audience by characters all eager to tell their story. The writing, rich with tropes – at times straining towards the poetic, but never clumsily, helps give the characters an existence above the mundane.
Interestingly the character with the most punk-like energy is the cynical and unprincipled, Leonard (‘Lennard’) Silver, whose own dreams of success and fortune are lived out through managing punk band, Blank Generation. Nathan Simpson’s second hand car dealer of a manager is irrepressibly manipulative and duplicitous, not only hiding his true motives, but also, amusingly, his real musical tastes which tend towards ‘prog rock’. True ‘arrival’, for him, is the band’s appearance on TOTP.
Matching him for cynicism, but for different reasons is the watchful and slightly moody realist, Ultra Violet (Rachel Milne) who befriends Tommy as he sets out at the beginning of his career.
Midge Mullin trebles up as both Kelly twins, musician Tommy and polio victim, Finbar and messianic Rasta, Jah Nebulous. Tommy follows the arc from wannabe punk star to punk star to grounded brother finally coming to realize what is important in life having first lost his identity following a freak accident.
This is an engaging and ambitious play, ideally suited to the Wardrobe Theatre and will help cement the venue’s growing reputation as a place for imaginative theatre.