Above the Arts Theatre, Sept 19th to Oct 8th, 2016 at 10pm
Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars **
Producers: 5pound5 Theatre and LWL Entertainment Ltd.
Cast: Dario Coates
Playwright: Leon Fleming
Director: Scott le Crass
“Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious may have been a junkie and an alcoholic (and, let’s be honest, not much of a musician), but he was PUNK. More than anyone else at the birth of the punk movement, he kicked against the system and spat in the face of polite conformity. For Craig, living in a world that just eats people up and spits them out as mindless zombies, a place where people leave him and are never seen again, this long-dead anti-hero is all he has to keep him on the straight and narrow, to keep him from joining all the other sheep. And he’s not having a good day”.
Arriving at the theatre at 9.30pm for the 10pm performance and the ground floor bar adjacent to the Box Office is closed. So you wait for the house to open upstairs, without an option to purchase a drink while waiting, and the house then opens. You go upstairs and the show has to wait for everyone to get a drink, served by one resolutely cheerful bar server. The Bar staff don’t know if the bar will open again after the show and won’t take pre-orders for after the show. So the bar queue backs into the seating and you can expect this show to always start late.
The show starts as Craig (Dario Coates of Doctors and Coronation Street fame) explodes into the script. Craig as a young man identifies with Sid Vicious. Despite Sid Vicious and Nancy posters on his bedroom wall there is little else to show his identity with Sid or Punk. No musical instruments, piercings, hair dye, hair style. Neatly placed T shirts on the floor perimeters, and nicely hung shirts and T-shirts on a clothes rail defy any notion that this well turned out boy is “into” Punk. Craig sporting a very modern partial shaved look, is wearing a T-Shirt, hoodie (popular late 1990s) and modern Puma fashion shoes (back in the 70s PUMA only did Sports shoes).
With punk being early to mid-70s you expect to see some vinyl and plenty of Cassette tapes. The Ikea bookcase (Ikea didn’t open in Warrington until 1987) holds plenty of CDs which are more late 1980s than Punk. There’s a Music Centre without a turntable or cassette tape player.
All of this makes it a little confusing to know the date we are in and the play’s setting. Are we in the 1990s, or 2000s or even 2016? Why would a young man post 1980s identify with Punk when he would not have experienced the peak of Sid Vicious’ fame. Or has the show just overlooked any research for the Design?
But then you look at the credits and there’s a lack of listing for “Designer.” And this is probably where the show’s problems originate. There doesn’t seem to be any Designer on the show, and there is an apparent lack of research to mesh it all together.
With the lighting rig on poles there is one very apparent shadow across the stage over stage right. Unfortunately this shadow centres across Craig’s face when he stands by the music centre, stands by the chair, or sits in the chair. And there’s a lot of blocking in these areas. (Lighting designer Jai Morjaria, RADA graduate)
There are a couple of technical glitches that border on humour – Craig’s control of the Music Centre not quite matched by the technician. For example, pushing a button on the music centre, Craig moves away and then the Music changes, and turning the volume for 2 secs moving away and there’s a slow fade down on the volume. No doubt these distractions will be resolved shortly.
But, despite the lack of technical and design on this show, it’s an amazing show! The script is clever, Dario’s delivery is engaging and powerful. There is passion and emotion in the story. We see humour, self-doubt, anger. If anyone wanted to do a showcase for their acting skills this is the play and Dario nails it! The audience laughed, were taken by surprise and shocked – everything Punk did back in its day. From a general perspective this play is soooo good! Catch it while you can!
With a 10pm showtime the play is likely to be accessed by night-owls. I hope there are some posters or other marketing on the outside of the theatre (I didn’t see any). This is an area of London where passing trade might just fancy coming in. What else is there to do 10pm at night? If you’re out having dinner then what a great way to end the evening watching this talented man perform right in the heart of the West End! You’ll be impressed by Dario and enjoy this show immensely.
Performance Dates September 19th 2016 – October 8th 2016
Monday – Saturday, 10pm
Running Time 50 minutes
Venue Above the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB
Ticket Price £14/£12
Box Office Arts Theatre West End (Ticket link), 020 7836 8463
Links Facebook (facebook.com/sidtheplay)