I shouldn’t blame the cast of this version excessively for how little I enjoyed Punk Rock: I should instead take it up with Simon Stephens. I found the unoriginality of the themes catatonically dull, the script and dialogue achingly obvious. Punk Rock is what you might get if you ate The History Boys, Lord of the Flies and a couple of series of Skins, then vomited them out in a puddle of teenage angst.
But enough trashing the script, which actors unfortunately have only a degree of control over - though perhaps it would have been better if they had dispensed with the play altogether and just sat in a circle eating candy and talking about their feelings.
A group of sixth formers from Stockport congregate in the school library to assert social hierarchy and generally be nasty to each other. There’s William, awkwardly endearing pathological liar; Bennett, bully and general shit; Cissy, his girlfriend who doesn’t really have any defining features aside from being blonde; Tanya, who at some point gets spat on; Chadwick, who isn’t spat on but is ritually humiliated in other ways involving lipstick; Nicholas, who seems a fairly decent guy but is underwritten; finally Lily, the new girl who apparently has nice hair. Gallons of teenage angst simmers and explodes into some entirely predictable violence.
The difficulty with Punk Rock is, for a play so dependent on distinct hierarchy, the respective statuses of the characters are justified in neither text nor performance. Why is everyone so scared of Bennett? Why is Tanya still friends with Cissy when Cissy never defends her? Why is everyone morbidly obsessed with Lily? New-kid novelty just doesn’t cover it.
The actors do their best with uninspiring, cookie-cutter roles. William is appropriately geeky and unhinged, Bennett your archetypal bully, Lily the ‘mysterious’ new girl. That’s all I can say really, the cast accurately portray this stereotypical band of teens in all their beige mediocrity. I felt both angry and bored.