Arts Theatre, London – until 25 September 2016
Green Day’s American Idiot is a celebrated punk rock concept Album written post 911. Wild speculation about who it is making reference to was rife at the time of release. Though fiercely denied by all (even in the shows programme), as we take to our seats videos are being projected of President George Bush’ various speeches.
The book written by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer is expanded from that of the concept album, and centers on three disaffected young men, Johnny, Will, and Tunny. Johnny and Tunny flee a stifling suburban lifestyle and parental restrictions, while Will stays home to work out his relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Heather. The former pair look for meaning in life and try out the freedom and excitement of the city. Tunny quickly gives up on life in the city, joins the military, and is shipped off to war. Johnny turns to drugs and finds a part of himself that he grows to dislike, has a relationship and experiences lost love.
A dynamic start and the feeling of teenage anger, power and anarchy is immense from the cast and on stage band. The cast exude high energy which continues throughout the show, with maximum impact the title and opening number certainly has the “X Factor”.
Newton Faulkner as Johnny is the pivotal role within this show, and one which he is certainly born this play. Every bit a leading man and each time he gets the opportunity to pick up the guitar himself to join the band he does so, which delighted me and all the audience. The depiction of his self-destruction had an intensity and I have to say for me the whole show had so many different layers I was taken by surprise. Having not seen the show and knowing it was only a hundred minutes long, with no interval I expected it to be shallow with a small amount of dialogue and effectively letting the album do the talking. How far from the truth could I possibly be and its testament to Faulkner and cast that I appreciated it for what it is – a piece of art.
Tunny played by Alexis Gerred had probably the most difficult role to play out of the three main characters. A complex character dealing with the graphic effects of war resulting in the need for having his leg amputated and post traumatic stress. His characterisation must have required a huge amount of research to ensure that his portrayal conveyed accurate feelings. Also a competent musician, which accompanied his powerful voice both made for a charismatic and completely captivating performance particularly in his solo’s
Steve Rushton played Will whilst also being an integral role within the cast and supporting at every opportunity with his ever ready guitar, his character was probably the least developed out of the three. Rushton gave a great performance, but I would have liked some more chances for him to come to the forefront but given the length of the production I accept it wouldn’t be possible. For this reason I shall look out for the name in future as I feel Rushton is destined for bigger roles.
Photo Credit Darren Bell
The sinister character of St Jimmy played by Lucas Rush was a harsh warning of what happens when you take anything to excess. Scaringly haunting his effect so brilliantly performed could linger long after the curtain came down.
Photo Credit Darren Bell
The delightful Amelia Lily as Whatsername was everything I’d hoped for and it seemed an absolutely effortlessly perfect performance throughout.
Choreography and direction by Racky Plews is some of the most innovative and visually creative as I’ve seen in this genre of musical for some time. Interesting and challenging, I applaud the cast for their perfect execution of it.
I was bowled over by the layers to this show, this accompanied by an excellent cast and Green Day’s iconic music it’s easy to see why this is a twice Tony and Grammy award winning show. This production is no different and there are some great performances. I particularly enjoyed some of the arrangements for the songs. So my advice in summary is if you like Green Day don’t be an idiot book now to see this production of American Idiot before it’s too late.