Opening the 2016 Freshers’ Festival Punk Rock had all the right ideas. Although the show could have done with some editing down, director Isi Webb-Jenkins was evidently keen to let us know she has a lot of ideas to offer.
On the whole, the show’s ensemble delivered. Indeed, the play worked best in it’s larger scenes, allowing the actors onstage greater freedom to bounce off each other. Edd Smith’s Bennett was a highlight, navigating the physicality and aggressive tonal shifts in his character. Similarly, Tom Golding maintained his character, Nick’s, subtle masculine presence onstage, with an ease of movement that drew the eye whenever he was in a scene. He brought a great deal of realism and vulnerability to the character, helping to turn the audience against William. Jason Gallant had a tougher job with William, considering the way in which this production decided to focus on William’s issues with mental health. Jason was in character all the time, constantly repeating ticks and bouncing his leg, whilst the audience watched him deteriorate further into confusion and paranoia.
Isi Webb-Jenkins and her technician Joe Ickowski evidently had some adventurous ideas for their lighting. With strobe lights, red gels and an eerie blue light, to add to the usual yellow wash, some ideas worked better than others, but the creativity behind the lights is exciting nonetheless. On a wider level, more rehearsal time would have improved the play, as putting together such a long show in a short space of time left areas underdeveloped. Pacing difficulties often created uncomfortable pauses that took away from tension that was being built. This resulted in a lack of energy and some scenes falling flat. The scene changes were clunky and long, but Webb-Jenkins had the right idea in giving little moments of narrative to the scene changes, whether it be William’s rage or the ghost-like departure of the dead teens. It just needed a little polish.
Although flawed, Punk Rock undeniably showed signs of promise – leaving me excited to see what the cast and crew move on to do in further productions.