A word from the director
The late 70s punk rock musical genre emerged onto the pop culture scene from the frustrations, disillusionment and recalcitrance of the educated and affl uent. The characters you will meet in Punk Rock tonight are from a similar background. There have been many plays that represent the hopes and fears of young people but middle class adolescents are somewhat unrepresented and can be just as dangerous. Simon Stephens said: “I was struck by the way in which the same fears and doubts and desires that had inspired me in the work I’d done in comprehensive schools were played out in private schools. Sometimes they were played out with more eloquence and often with the safety valve of economic stability. But the psychological traumas weren’t different”. Being seventeen and standing on the edge of an uncertain future is something many young people experience today. The subject matter in this play has sometimes been demanding and draining. We have tried to capture the suffocation of the young people in a middle class, high-aspirational and pressurised world. The sixth-formers dream, strive and take refuge in the upper school library while the world awaits their contribution to society.
We hope you enjoyed this modern piece of contemporary drama brought to you by HTC’s talented young actors.
William Carlisle – Rhys Hayes
Lilly Cahill – Rhiannon Bates
Bennett Francis – Jake Hannam
Cissy Franks – Carrie-Lee Stevens
Nicholas Chatman – Tom Williams
Chadwick Mead – Oliver Page
Tanya Gleason – Emily Welch
Lucy Francis – Summer Mawdsley
Dr Richard Harvey – Clive Weatherley
Review: Harlow Star. 24 September 2015
Harlow Theatre Company's latest was a far grittier affair than the name Punk Rock suggested and my expectations of a School of Rock style show were quickly cast aside.
Set in the present day in the library of a grammar school in Stockport, the only punk rock played is a blast of The White Stripes while the scenes change round and the characters only briefly discuss music.
The title of Simon Stephens' play is more to sum up the frustrations, disillusionment and recalcitrance of youth rather than its soundtrack – and after the initial confusion, the name turns out to be a fitting one.
The six leads are all 17-year-old sixth-formers studying (or not in some cases) for their mock exams and the half-dozen are quickly introduced.
At first glance we have the classic characters you'll find in any school-based drama.
There's Bennett, the school bully, Lilly, the attractive new girl, Tanya, the quiet but good natured one, Nicholas, the jock, William, unworldly, Cissy, the straight-A irritant and Chadwick, the nerd.
All six are perfectly cast, and the young actors deliver such credible performances it brings back memories of school you'd rather forget.
While the early interchanges somewhat expected (Bennett bullies Chadwick, William is eager to impress Lilly) the power of their performances keep you hooked.
The audience can empathise with poor old Chadwick's feeling of just wanting the bell to ring so he can leave.
Another strength is the equal stage time enjoyed by the leads – and the absence of a real protagonist means we can appreciate the ups and downs of every character. The plot doesn't really develop in a conventional sense, but more through the changes of characters and the downward spiral of William is central to the story. Rhys Hayes gives the stand-out performance in portraying William's transformation from a kooky dimwit to an unhinged psycho.
The climactic scenes are both exhilarating and disturbing which is a testament to the pacing of the play and direction of Jane Miles.
While the show has now run its cause at the Victoria Hall Theatre, which was sadly not at capacity, it is well worth keeping an eye on what these fabulous young talents attempt next.
Review by William Mata