Ever since it was announced that Arlene Phillips would be co-directing this ‘exciting new musical’ I had wanted to love this show and followed its development avidly. When it was announced the superbly talented Ryan Molloy and Cassie Compton had been cast in two of the lead roles, I thought this is going to be a sure fire hit.
How wrong I was … Walking in to the sauna that was The Cockpit Theatre on press night (I’ve not scored them down for this!), and placing myself on the incredibly low and uncomfortable seating (nor this!), the first thing we see is some kind of scaffolding arrangement. This turns out to be the set. Although allegedly ‘designed’ I suspect the production team had some kind of deal with Travis Perkins to supply it.
But often the simplest sets belie that a truly spectacular show is about to take place, don’t they? … Alas, not in this case.
As soon as the lights go down the stage is filled with an array of dancers stomping and throwing themselves about the stage (and as the night went on splashing the audience with sweat as well). It was akin to watching a mediocre end of year performance at a stage school, lots of black, lots of eyes and teeth yet failing to hide what was a very rigid dance routine.
But that was only an opening dance by the ensemble, as soon as the acting starts and the big songs commence, it’s going to get so much better … surely it will? You can probably guess what’s coming …
The show itself is called 27 in recognition of the handful of stars who have met untimely deaths at that all too young age. The show focuses on Orpheus (Greg Oliver), 23 at the time we first meet him, but within a couple of scenes he announces “we’ve been in the business four years now” … 23 plus 4 … oh no … something dire must be about to happen …
And the dire did happen. What followed was a painful mixture of the blindingly obvious plotline mixed occasionally with WTF is going on. The ‘comic’ lines fell flat on their face (perhaps inspired to do so by the dance routines which involved a lot of falling). The songs, with the exception of a couple, were incredibly weak and instantly forgettable.
The lighting ‘design’ combined with the Travis Perkins set, created a vision of The Adventure Game wrestling with images of The Crystal Maze. The plot went through Greek mythology, talk show, Shakespearean … I even think I heard a poor Hamilton-esque hip hop rap at one stage (though my mind could have been playing tricks on me by then).
I did feel sorry for the cast, Greg Oliver was particularly good at trying to make the most of this hotch potch of clumsiness and I hope he gets a better role soon.
The genius behind the music and lyrics to Matilda and Groundhog Day, Tim Minchin was in the audience for Press Night. I can only imagine what he was thinking. Very, very disappointing.
It’s 1980s America, Duck and Mickey are two teenagers struggling to fit in. They’re grabbing at life; guitars, girls, love, fury, heartbreak and noise noise noise. Punk is their escape from suburbia and it’s like nothing they have ever heard, It’s fast – it’s alive – it’s already dead …
This is a coming-of-age story, a bromance, a tale of not fitting in. With nothing more than army school or college to look forward to, Duck (Matthew Castle) and Mickey (Sam Perry) are determined to embrace the subversiveness they’ve seen and admired in old schoolmate, Chris (Jack Sunderland) and form a band.
Duck, the cockier more streetwise of the pair, kicks things off with a Mohawk (very nicely done on stage!), and so we’re set for 90 minutes of fast paced humour, tenderness and music. All on rollerskates ….
The staging is simple but works incredibly well. Props are wrapped and sport handwritten labels; ‘record’ ,’beer’, ‘porn’. The lighting design (Sarah Readman) smartly takes us between scenes. With some nifty sound design (Jethro Cooke) and spot on direction (Tom Hughes), together everything gels to form possibly one of the best productions I’ve seen this year.
Although the plot centres firmly on Duck and Mickey, I have to congratulate the other two cast members – Aysha Kala and Jack Sunderland who bring the story alive with the handful of characters they play between them.
The two young lead actors have genuine chemistry between them. The ‘fight – embrace – fight’ scene is truly hilarious yet incredibly moving showing the genuine deep down affection the two characters have for one another. Sam Perry as Mickey makes his professional debut in punkplay, though you would think he had been on stage for years from his fantastic performance.
As for Matthew Castle as Duck, this guy should really be up for an award. Absolutely outstanding, perfect characterisation, and a delight to watch.
Playwright Gregory S Moss’ punkplay will make you laugh out loud and will give you a lot to think about.
There’s a number of events going on to celebrate 40 years of the punk rock scene. If you go to just one, make sure it’s punkplay – you will not be disappointed. It truly is punkin’ fabulous.
Alas, the Zoo Sluts don’t yet appear to have made it on to iTunes ….
This month it’s all about punk rock with two very different shows coming up featuring the era of spikey hair and safety pins and big characters …
One of the biggest and most controversial stars of the time has to be Sid Vicious, the short-lived star of the Sex Pistols. He was idolised by many disillusioned youngsters … and even to this day, as we find out in ‘Sid’, Leon Fleming’s one man play that transfers into the West End for three weeks after a critically acclaimed tour.
Starring former Coronation Street star Dario Coates as Craig and directed by the talented Scott Le Crass, this 50 minute show opens at Above the Arts on September 19th.
So why not join Craig for some hero worship, as he battles a world where people always leave him but Sid, keeps him on the straight and narrow …
Across the river at the Southwark Playhouse, opening on 9th September (previews from 7th), there’s Punkplay, Gregory S Moss’ coming of age story, with a killer soundtrack.
There’s Duck and there’s Mickey (Matthew Castle & Sam Perry). They’re the kids of America and it’s the 80s apocalypse. They hate their parents and there’s no point in algebra. They’re grabbing at this thing called life: guitars, girls, love, fury, heartbreak and noise noise noise. Punk is their escape from suburbia and it’s like nothing they have ever heard. It’s fast – it’s alive – it’s already dead.
Gregory S. Moss’s punkplay is a riot of a play told at breakneck pace with a killer soundtrack. It’s a coming-of-age story about subcultures, friendship and not-fitting-in, all on rollerskates. Also featuring Jack Sutherland and Aysha Kala.