Punk Rock

Fri 3rd – Sat 18th August 2012


Hannah Buckley

at 09:54 on 5th Aug 2012



When this show started, I thought "oh no. Is this going to be like a version of the channel 4 series 'skins' on stage"? The blurb does not say anything that objects to this. Yet ‘Punk Rock’ is something new, and something original thanks to the brilliant writing skills of Simon Stephens. Not only is it different, but the plot is so powerful that I was left quite affected by it for some time after the play.

The play is set in a Stockport high school, and we are introduced to the cast through the arrival of new girl Lily (Serena Jennings). Jennings herself oozes coolness and sexiness, and it is easy to see why characters William (Will Merrick) and Nicholas (Joel Edward Banks) are both drawn and fight over her. William begins as the awkward boy of the group who is keen to show Lily around the school. His innocence and quirkiness makes him melt a few hearts, as well as receiving a lot of laughs from the audience throughout the play. We see his difficulty in dealing with his friend Bennett (Wesley Lineham) bullying another friend Chadwick (Patrick Fleming), and it is this among side other secondary school difficulties he has to face which suddenly leads to a ‘snap’. This snap corresponds to the mood of the play suddenly, and shockingly, turning.

Lineham was brilliant. He makes the audience fall into the trap of liking him at the beginning as he fools around with Cissy (Olivia Duffin). He gets nastier and nastier to Chadwick and then Tanya (Philippa Brown). Duffin’s part as the girlfriend who pretends it all to be a joke adds to the nastiness of the actions. She seems lovely and friendly, but we soon see two sides to the character which Duffin portrays well.

The play is full of the concerns a sixth former would have: exams, UCAS applications, how the year sevens are so annoying and arrogant. Yet it also shows when things go too far and how a build-up of emotional difficulty can lead to an explosion. A very powerful drama, and well worth a watch.


Laura Peatman

at 12:31 on 5th Aug 2012



Judging by the wild shrieks of excitement that greeted the cast on leaving theSpace on the Mile, the main attraction of this show for some was the appearance of Channel 4’s ‘Skins’ star, Will Merrick: yet this production was far from a one-man show, as the whole ensemble gave a confident, funny and at times electrifying performance of Simon Stephens 2009 work.

‘Punk Rock’ follows a group of Stockport sixth-form students as they study for their mock A-level exams and prepare for the beginning of the rest of their lives. The arrival of attractive new student Lily from Cambridge (the Cantabrigian in me couldn’t help but enjoy the stereotypes and insults leveled at the concept of Cambridge students) injects a shot of sexual tension into the group, and as relationships unwind things take a much darker tone. The cast did a stellar job of negotiating this emotional roller coaster of a play. The opening scenes, reminiscent in some ways of that great high school drama ‘The History Boys’, were perfectly pitched in their humour and lightness, with Merrick’s William displaying comic awkwardness in contrast to the brashness of Olivia Duffin’s Cissy and Wesley Lineham’s Bennett. Particularly engaging were the scenes between Merrick and Serena Jennings (Lily) who demonstrated easy and relaxed chemistry on stage, and the understated presence of the unfortunate Chadwick, portrayed sensitively yet humorously by Patrick Fleming.

Yet it was as the mood darkens that the real force of this ensemble’s talent was felt. Lineham gave a stand-out performance, powerfully nasty in his violent yet largely unchallenged bullying, creating real frissons of fear and palpably raising the tension of the room. For those unfamiliar with the plot, I won’t give spoilers, but the climactic scene truly had me on the edge of my seat, fearing for what was about to happen: Joel Edward Banks, thus far somewhat underused as the charming Nicholas, shone convincingly, whilst Merrick held the stage forcefully and should be commended for effortlessly blending humour and tragedy in these closing scenes. The tension remained high and the audience were enthralled.

My only criticisms of the show would be leveled at small aspects of production and tech. End-of-scene blackouts were a little too abrupt – perhaps an intentional directorial decision, but this risked cutting off the final line or expression of the scene. The rowdy punk rock music which blared between scenes was sometimes effective in adding energy, but at times simply jarred. Yet these minor points should not detract from a brilliant production with a real explosive spark at its centre: a first-rate performance from all involved, and certainly not one to miss.


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