Meeting Joe Strummer
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Sat 27 Nov, then touring
That hoary old chestnut about when political compromise becomes sell out is at the centre of this amiable little fable, at least as much as the tragic punk rebel of the title. In this revival of a past fringe hit, we meet Nick (Huw Higginson), a suburban posh boy aiming for rebellion and Steve (Steve North) an intense working class kid from a nearby school. They first encounter each other at the dawn of punk in 1976, two disaffected kids, looking for a place to put their ultimately rather mild forms of adolescent rage. We trace them through their lives to a final meeting in 2002, at one of the last gigs of the eponymous hero, mutually worshipped by the protagonists.
The piece traces Steve’s unsettled, at times drug addled, life through the ravages of Thatcherism, and finally to a marriage and child. Nick meanwhile, has pursued a career path through acting to a prominent role in Eastenders. Each struggles to maintain their early radicalism quarrelling about each other’s integrity to a quietly uplifting finale. Paul Hodson’s production of his own script bops along nicely to the music of The Clash, and touches on a quarter century of personal and political history without ever becoming lightweight or glib in its conclusions. The minimalist set (three posters on a bare stage) offsets the free-spirited feel nicely — ‘props? Fuck em’ cries Nick, and the two performers, if showing a little mid-tour tiredness, work well with their audience, for an engaging night out.