Arts Theatre, London – until 25 September 2016
Green Day’s anarchic and rebellious, teen-angst filled musical, American Idiot is back on the London stage with a star-studded cast who battle, and floor, the age-old scepticism of putting celebrities into a commercial show. After a well-received UK tour, Racky Plews’ take on the concept album returns to the Arts Theatre for a tourist-tempting summer residency.
With music and book written by the band’s front man Billie Joe Armstrong, it’s not surprising that the material entirely embodies the initial anger and frustration toward American society that inspired the album back in 2004. The story follows three friends, Johnny, Tunny and Will as they mature, struggling to grow up in a world of right-wing politics and commercial greed that they don’t conform with and we see the three all end up in very different areas of a painful modern life.
Johnny (Newton Faulkner) is the main focus of the story, with a vision to move to the city and separate himself and his friends from the small town mind-set that they’ve been living in and start a new, free life and Faulkner proves a pleasant surprise with a strong performance. There are a few moments when his voice becomes lost in the on stage anarchy, but he suits the character and seems entirely comfortable in the piece. His shining moment is the calm and quiet rendition of Wake Me Up When September Ends, transporting the audience into an intimate, acoustic gig. Learning that he started his music career playing bass guitar in a Green Day cover band comes as no surprise.
The ensemble though is filled with strong seasoned performers who really make the show. Lucas Rush again soars in his role as the heroin-created alter ego of Johnny, St Jimmy. His energy on stage is gripping and each time he appears you are instantly drawn to watch him. The same can be said for Amelia Lily continuing in the role of Whatsername, with a chemistry across from Faulkner that is enchanting and despite the small role, Lily shines.
Contrasted against current political and social affairs, American Idiot continues to be a very relevant piece of theatre.
Runs until 25th September
Photo credit: Darren Bell