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    Review: Punk Rock


    Four Stars

    Set in an anonymous northern grammar school, Punk Rock tells the story of seven teenagers and their daily frustrations, power plays and fears. Their lives are an exaggerated version of what perhaps many of us went through in secondary school: boredom, insecurity and a lot of loud music. But exaggeration is the key here; for these kids are smarter, funnier and ultimately far more dangerous than perhaps any of our school personas ever were. 

    Our story starts with, Lily (Isobel Jesper Jones) arriving on her first day at a new school. Soon she is introduced to the hierarchies and cliques that rule the corridors. Her first point of contact is the rather tragically uncool William (Hamish Forbes). William proceeds to impress upon her his social status by showing her his privileged access to a semi precious book in the library. Just how tragically uncool William really is, becomes fully apparent when we meet the eminently cool school bully Bennet (Keelan Kember). At the head of his trailing entourage is his girlfriend Cissy and his best friend Nicholas. Sulking in the shadows of periphery social status is the poor Tanya who attempts some form of doomed resistance to the hegemony of Bennett. She is mainly fighting for the socially challenged genius of the group, Chadwick (George Varley), who receives the full brunt of Bennet’s public shows of power.

    Much of the play revolves around the daily battles and seductions amongst these characters. Wiliam tries it with Lily, Nicholas gets it with Lily. Bennet demands public shows of subservience, while Chadwick sits there and says clever things. A lot of it is like watching a cleverer and more vicious version of the inbetweeners.

    I say vicious because the play has a dark underbelly that jars with the surface layer of jovial yet malicious wit. Director Archie Thomson, has made the wise decision of adding a series of abstract transition scenes set to music, conveying the building sense that something is not quite right. It is a wise decision but ultimately one which I’m not sure is quite adequate. The play features an extremely dramatic climax which jars with the quotidian premise. This however is perhaps more a fault with the play than the production itself.

    This is a distinction that needs to be made because the direction and the performances were on point throughout. In this regard Hamish Forbes deserves special recognition for in many ways carrying the narrative thrust of the play and indeed the out of place climax. In the latter half of the play his performance was akin to David Tennant’s manic and deranged Hamlet. His real achievement was the great control and finesse with which he developed his character from normality to insanity. This control did much to alleviate the inconsistency inherent in the original story.

    Bennet, played by Keelan Kember in many ways stole all of his scenes; being by far the best scripted character. Luckily he lived up to the intelligence and humor of his part by playing Bennet as part Posner from the History Boy, part Algernon from Earnest and part Nelson from the Simpsons. He was able to create such an impression due to the professionalism and consistency of the cast overall. George Varley as Chadwick really shined in the scene where he finally stands up to Bennet. Otherwise his silent yet incredibly mannered presence was instrumental in pulling of the sense of oppressive tension at the school. Ali Ackland Snow’s irreverent non sequitor line delivery as Cissy provided some much needed comic relief in the more intense scenes.

    It is a real credit to both the direction and the performances that they kept us laughing right until things started getting serious. Yet it is undeniable that that the transition from the comical to the serious still felt a little disjointed. As this was more a flaw in the script than the production, I very much recommend the trek out to LMH for an intense, hilarious and ultimately very challenging addition to Trinity’s theatrical fare. 

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