PUNK ROCK: Simon Stephens
On tour: till 20 November (at Warwick Arts Centre)
Review: 17.11.10 (at WAC), Rod Dungate
Grabs the young audience members and doesn’t let them go
Simon Stephens’ PUNK ROCK is an energetic look at the trials and tribulations of growing up. At times vigorously funny at other times humanly touching, its greatest achievement is that it holds young people’s attention in a dramatic and iron grip.
The bawdy, sexual humour, the tension and occasional melodrama speak directly to an audience who respond wholeheartedly – a sure sign being that moments of silence in the play hold, and you could hear a proverbial pin drop.
Central to the story is the much troubled William Carlisle, trying to find his way as a sixth-former in a confusing world. He can’t easily form relationships nor readily make progress in his A level studies (the play takes place in a library space in an Independent school in Stockport.) Matters are much made worse by the horrendous bullying tactics of sexually ambiguous Bennett Francis and the arrival of attractive new girl Lilly Cahill. The play builds vigorously to its terrible conclusion.
Stephens’ characters are broadly drawn but sensitively played, encouraging the audience’s empathy. At times the fast pace works well, but sometimes it feels forced and diction suffers. But for the most part the acting team is strong.
Rupert Simonian gives a lovely distanced performance as the troubled William, showing us both the character’s confusion and his, almost uncomprehending, inability to do anything about it. Edward Franklin convinces with his ferocious bullying but the writing of his character doesn’t really support the sexual ambiguity which appears stuck on. Mike Noble presents us with some well-shaped dramatic u-turns as nerdy Chadwick Meade.
The play’s title is a bit of a mystery though.
William Carlisle: Rupert Simonian
Lilly Cahill: Laura Pyper
Bennett Francis: Edward Franklin
Cissy Franks: Ruth Milne
Tanya Gleason: Katie West
Nicholas Chatman: Nicholas Banks
Chadwick Meade: Mike Noble
Lucy Francis: Juliet York
Dr Richard Harvey: Simon Wolfe
Director: Sarah Frankcom
Designer: Paul Wills
Lighting Designer: Philip Gladwell
Sound Designer: Pete Rice
Associate Director: Joe Murphy
Fight Director: Kate Waters