SERIOUSLY IMPRESSIVE RENDITION OF RICH AND EXPLOSIVE SCRIPT
By Simon Stephens
Director: Benjamin Henson
Produced by: The Outfit Theatre Company
at The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
From 27 Mar 2012 to 7 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Joanna Page, 29 Mar 2012
When I learned the Outfit Theatre Company resorted to using a guest ensemble cast for Punk Rock I was worried. Sure the teenage characters needed to look like Upper Sixth Formers, not like the 20-somethings who played teenagers in 90210, but how good would they be?
As it turns out, they're bloody brilliant.
Within a minute of watching from the perimeter of the common room where Simon Stephens' play unfolds, I was sitting up as straight as a pupil next to the school's Principal. And that's how I stayed for the next two hours.
The play tells the story of the complex relationships of seven pupils about to sit their A levels and venture out into the world. Their grapple with life, love, sex, study and power is brought to a head when Lilly Cahill, a new pupil, arrives only a month before the big exams.
With John Parker's pared-back set of just two tables, several chairs, huge window frames and a few books and bags, there's nowhere else you could be but in a common room. Combined with Brad Gledhill's lighting and Joel Herbert's ear-drum-blitzing music and often subtle soundscape (trains and school bells), the audience focuses entirely on the actors. And under such intense scrutiny, they can't afford to make a mistake.
Other than a few hit-and-miss accents, the cast nails it.
Under Benjamin Henson's direction they manage to avoid the stereotypical characters, which would have been very easy to fall back on, by showing more vulnerability. That, coupled with a remarkable ability to stay in character and remain completely present throughout the entire performance, means they interact naturally. Weave that with a seamless and rich script and you get some very powerful work.
I have to take my hat off to the whole cast – I was seriously impressed and can't wait to see what they do next. That said, the three standouts are Nathan Mudge's troubled-bordering-on-paranoid William, Ryan Dulieu's remarkably strong Chadwick, and Sarah Graham's brazen, manipulative and gently understanding Lilly.
Punk Rock isn't a light-hearted comedy. It's as angst-ridden as any teenager's “why me?” journal, but it's explosive and well worth checking out.
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See also reviews by:
James Wenley (Theatre Scenes - Auckland Theatre Blog);
Paul Simei-Barton (New Zealand Herald);