idiot head

Green Day’s American Idiot

Joint Stock Musical Theatre Company

The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham


There is something refreshing – almost Shakespearean – about theatres in pubs. Stripped of conventional formality, the experience is far more inclusive and accessible.

London, of course, has its fair share of such venues, providing valuable platforms for young actors out of drama school or even bigger names trying out new work.

Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock Theatre is a rare example of such a venue outside the capital and all credit to it.

Beer and good theatre ? What's not to like?

American Idiot opened on Broadway in 2010, to mixed reviews. It focuses on the disenchantment of three young men with aspirations to break free from what is expected from their middle class, restrictive surroundings.

Entirely sung through, it's a rock opera in the tradition of works such as Tommy and We Will Rock You. Played against a thrashing score of American Pamerican idiotunk Band Green Day tracks, the result is an in your face anarchy that oozes energy.

The storyline, of course, is nothing new. It's a ‘rage against the machine’ tale of breaking free and refusing to conform. Angry young people sticking two fingers up at society is hardly an innovative idea for a show, but it's a formula that clearly continues to work.

Musical Theatre has moved on. Whilst traditional favourites still pull in the crowds, a new breed of show is bringing in a younger audience. Shows like ‘The Book of Mormon’ ‘ Urinetown’ ‘ Wicked’ ‘ Kinky Boots ‘ and ‘ Memphis ‘ have all impressed at West End Level. Just a look at the song list for this show gives a clear idea of just how contemporary we are talking. ‘ Give Me Novacaine’ and ‘ Before The Labotomy’ are titles that pretty much tell it like it is. Gershwin may not have approved . . . or maybe he would.

Performances are tight and, at times, excellent. Gavin Whichello cuts a dangerous figure as Johnny. All snarling attitude - his body and demeanour scream ‘ F… You‘ before he even opens his mouth. A kind of cross between Ewan MgGreggor in ‘Trainspotting’ and a Rotweiler. You get the picture.

Roddy Lynch gives a gentler perspective as Tunny and Adam Carver strides the space with camp majesty.

Special mention must be made to Alanna Boden as Whatsername. A beautiful, engaging performance. Sometimes, less is more and she demonstrates that to perfection.

The ensemble almost burst with pent up energy and keep the pace alive throughout.

One of the difficulties in selling this show may be that it's something of a limited market. Green Day are undoubtedly a big name, but not in the same  theatre box office league as, say, Abba, Queen or Franki Valli whose musical spin offs have huge, universal appeal.

That said, the show deserves to be seen on merit alone.

This is angry, pulsating and gutsy theatre with an edge. A strong musical arrangement combining head on with some super performances. Get your yourself a pint – or a fruit based drink for the ladies- and give it a go. To 21-02-16

Tom Roberts



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