punkplay (3 Stars)

Southwark Playhouse, 7 Sept – 1 Oct 2016
Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars ***

by Gregory S. Moss


Matthew Castle and Sam Perry

Directed by Tom Hughes
Designed by Cécile Trémolières
Lighting Design by Sarah Readman
Sound Design by Jethro Cooke
Casting by Sophie Holland
Produced by Philippa Neels

“There’s Duck and there’s Mickey. They’re the kids of America and it’s the 80s apocalypse. They hate their parents and there’s no point in algebra. They’re grabbing at this thing called life: guitars, girls, love, fury, heartbreak and noise noise noise. Punk is their escape from suburbia and it’s like nothing they have ever heard. It’s fast – it’s alive – it’s already dead”.

Duck (Mathew Castle) moves in with his mate Mickey (Sam Perry). Something to do with Duck’s dad. Come the end of the play he moves back in with his dad. We never really know what or why this is all about. Mickey has a crush on Sue (Aysha Kala). Sue gives Duck a blow job which is witnessed by Mickey. The play chooses to ignore this rather momentous event and it isn’t mentioned or brought up by anyone ever. The play, like the story, sadly lacks any real personal detail or drills down too deep. It comes from nowhere and goes nowhere.

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But despite this huge flaw, the Set (Cecile Tremolieres) and Lighting (Sarah Readman) create a lot of Colour. The Set has 2 doors and 2 windows, painted in Sky Blue with Pink trims. The Proscenium arch and large theatrical Curtains in Mickey’s room open up to show a stage within the stage where the boys can play Drums and Guitar together and create music. It’s an elaborate set, simple but impressive.


Sarah lights the offstage areas, the windows, the doors, the mirrorballs, the slash curtain – in fact everywhere. Her design isn’t pre-occupied with lighting the actors but in fact considers the set, furniture and apertures with good choices of colour and dimension. The smallish space feels bigger thanks to the lighting. Some interesting looks and plenty of dramatic flicker effects.

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With LED Strips, 9 Motorised Mirror Balls and the cast on roller skates there’s plenty to play with! Using the LED Strips as Colour Wash lights is a cost effective creative solution that works well. The highlight of the show has to be when the very handsome boys have a slow dance and kiss with the 9 Mirror balls revolving in the middle of their fight scene.

Subtle and non-intrusive video integration can sometimes be challenging. The Video Designer (Michael Lightborne) achieves this well using a period TV in the room allowing film and TV footage to be shown. With the passage of time, and the boys growing up, flash cards of the seasons were cleanly and efficiently shown on the TV.

However, the roller skates are only used to skate back and forth, there isn’t any choreography, speed, or even apparent reason for them being on skates. And very quickly you forget the skates. Until they come off at the end. The significance in the skates being removed was possibly about putting punk aside and becoming a different more grown-up person.

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Unfortunately, Doors and Windows open and close on their own like some haunted house. There’s a lot of moving props around by the Cast which isn’t part of the action – done in silence while we watch and wait. This delays the Performance and slows the pace. With a story that doesn’t much go anywhere, little emotional journey, and slow pace due to the staging, the energy of the circa 1974 Punk era is sadly lacking.


One interesting touch was when Mickey masturbates onto his soft toy and some American flags kabuki (Bukkake?) drop in. And a bizarre scene when he hallucinates and Ronald Reagan becomes his sexual predator with a Backing Vocal troupe comprised of a White Polar Bear and Jesus in a loin cloth (Jack Sunderland). Some interesting facial expressions around the audience from those who “got it” and those who were just stunned!

Although the cast are great and the Technical and Design aspects of this show really good, I failed to understand why, although it was produced well, it was produced at all. There’s no great well-known catchy songs, no story of significance, no political, social, or community issue highlighted. With long speeches in the script spoken directly to the audience throughout, and an especially long monologue to the audience to finish the show, when the roller skates are removed, the show grinds to a halt.

Photos by Helen Murray