- Lorna Irvine
- 30 June 2016
Satire on wasted youth hits most of its targets
Green Day's 2004 concept album American Idiot, their seventh, saw the band go from cartoonish, snotty-nosed punk pop act to stratospheric stadium fillers. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, who co-wrote the book for this unstoppable hit musical with Michael Mayer, has crafted a fine show based on the album's themes, such as the nullifying effects of mass media and drug abuse alike.
The narrative may be simple – take three disenfranchised American 'kids' and follow their respective lives – but it's effective. The bong smoking, trash talking trio, Johnny (Newton Faulkner) Tunny (Alex Gerred) and Will (Steve Rushton) go to extremes in an attempt to find or lose themselves – Tunny joins the army and Johnny goes from coke to heroin addict, but Will becomes a dad (and a feckless stoner one at that).
The music is mostly well-performed, as in a swaggering 'Holiday' and poignant 'Wake Me Up When September Ends' although '21 Guns' (from follow-up album 21st Century Breakdown) strays into mawkish Glee territory and some of director/choreographer Racky Plews' routines feel a little uninspired. The nod to punk cheerleaders from Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit video doesn't add much.
However, there are enough moments of humour and energetic exposition to sustain the show’s satire. Faulkner deserves kudos for bringing cheek and charm to a character which could have been a lazy archetype – he is bursting with charisma and has a great voice and real presence.
Even if Tunny and Will feel underwritten, as much as their female counterparts, the cast are dynamic, acutely conveying the need to self-medicate when options are scarce; and the camaraderie that keeps them together.