Punk Rock is a thought-provoking play about an emotional group of students under a lot of stress; they are studying for their A-Levels. It is a realistic portrait of the constraints forced upon the young in society, despite their adulthood being merely a year or two away. In Punk Rock, they are made to follow a timetable, respond to a bell, dress appropriately and obey the social order.
The conversations that arise from the characters in the play are all by-products of this; their conversations possess in them a need to escape the monotony of their everyday existence. Lily, the new girl, describes how she burns herself because she likes the feeling, William, a seemingly bright student, compulsively lies, and Bennett – the bully – tries to exercise what little power he can by violently controlling those around him. These constraints, in part, drive our protagonist, William, to do something absolutely terrible, his reason for it being, in a world where he can do so little, “simply because [he] could”.
A greatly effective aspect of Sunscreen’s production of Punk Rock is the manic stylised interludes in-between some of the scenes. Loud rock music and strobe lighting came on and all the actors apart from one creepily don white masks, focusing on the unmasked actor’s deepest fear, allowing the audience a glimpse at what drives the characters. These scenes were a lot of fun not just for the audience, but also, it seemed, for the actors.
Praise has to be given to Hamish Forbes for his convincing portrayal of William – an extremely challenging character to portray. The highlight of the play was most definitely his closing monologue – chilling yet spectacularly delivered. Keelan Kember interpreted the role of Bennett in an interesting fashion. Instead of playing Bennett as brash and loud – as would have been so easy – he took on a much calmer demeanour than the role suggested, his voice sounding gentle at moments even as the most disgusting words came out of his mouth.
This play, it should be mentioned, is not just a serious work but is rich in comic moments. George Varley (Chadwick) and Ali Ackland-Snow (Cissi) deliver some hilarious lines with great comic timing. The audience was, by turns, induced into shocked silence and uproarious laughter.
One of my criticisms however is that in this production of Punk Rock, the play’s dénouement was not quite as tense and terrifying as it should have been. This, sadly, was mainly due to a very unrealistic prop – a toy gun – that simply irritated, distracting when one should have been captivated by the terror of the situation. Instead, the audience was constantly reminded that the scenes on stage were just that: on stage. We should, at this point, have been shocked into the desired state of catharsis that was, unfortunately, not forthcoming.
All in all, however, the brilliant writing of the play alone is enough to make Punk Rock worth watching. Competently performed by this talented cast, Punk Rock is very much to be recommended.