Review: Punk Rock: The B-Side

Lifestyle / Fri 18th Sep 2015 at 12:44pm

Punk Rock by Simon Stephens produced by Harlow Theatre Company September 2015.

THE problem with any play is that you have to have a good script as a starting point and in order to make that script believable it has to be well performed and delivered with truth and Harlow Theatre Company have achieved just that in their latest production of the critically acclaimed play ‘Punk Rock’ by Simon Stephens.

Seven high-achieving seventeen year olds swat for their mocks at a fee-paying Stockport school where their individual anxieties, collective rivalries and uncertainties are played out by this promising, young cast.
The ensemble brought to life the punchy, unnerving, unhinged script with strong, truthful performances relevant to today’s ‘internet generation’ and hit the mark hard, leaving us questioning this modern society and the world we will leave our children to grow up in.

Rhys Hayes’s gangly, endearing and troubled William was magnetic, charming and disturbing across the whole range of his Hamlet-esque build and demise. Oliver Page’s Chadwick was a nicely weighted mix of sanity and vulnerability under the relentless barrage of Jake Hannam’s bullying Bennett. His detestable behaviour contrasted perfectly with the surprise tenderness of his sexual insecurities. Nicholas the sports jock and girl-magnet provided some light relief and Tom Williams played him with good comic timing and almost accidental appeal.

The girls were no lightweights either. Carrie-Lee Stevens, Rhiannon Bates and Emily Welch were compelling and distinct throughout. I found myself particularly despising Cissy’s ability to shrug off blood-boiling bullying whilst being appalled at getting a “B” in English! Outside this core group of seven the cameos of Clive Weatherley and Summer Mawdsley…at different ends of the age and experience spectrum… completed an accomplished performance.

The cleverly lit imposing library set was a suitably claustrophobic ‘arena’ for the action and the frenetic musically charged scene changes and soundtrack kept the tension building throughout.
These are young actors whose inexperience exposed a few rough edges. However the quality of their work is driven more by natural talent than long-developed skills and technique, leaving Harlow Theatre Company with a rich pool of future talents. 
All credit to director Jane Miles for stretching the casts’ performance capability to produce something of this quality and for taking this thrilling, thought provoking play off the pages and delivering a power house of a production.

The theme of adolescent dislocation is a little familiar and those seeking a more underpinning rationale for the action may not like this script too much. However few will doubt that Miles has captured the raw tension of youth and brought it to a credible angry climax in this entertaining credit to theatre in Harlow. 

Punk Rock is running now until the 19th September 2015 at The Victoria Hall, Bury Road, Old Harlow.
I would strongly recommend this production to all those looking for thought provoking, strong theatre that will leave you reflecting on the world we are living in today.  

Tickets at £10 and £7.50 concessions. 
Mitchell Rous

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