Music and Lyrics: Green Day and Billie Joe Armstrong
Director and Choreographer: Racky Plews
Designer: Sara Perks
Lighting Designer: Tim Deiling
Sound Designer: Chris Whybrow
Musical Supervisor: Richard Morris
Reviewer: Molly Knox
American Idiot at the King’s Theatre is still a riotous musical full of flare and emotion, ten years on from the show’s creation. This show heaves the audience into a punk-rock post-9/11 suburbia, unfolding just over a year’s worth of heartbreak, drug-taking, and conflict for three young men; Johnny, Tunny and Will. The show’s three main characters’ stories are fitfully accompanied by Greenday’s indignant and politically charged 2004 album, American Idiot, as the show’s score.
Graffiti stained, flag-draped, dingy concrete set, intersected with fiery punk costumes, to the back drop of intense lighting that’s enough to knock your breath away, create a snapshot of adolescent angst, lust and nihilism that is visually faultless. It’s difficult to look away as the blend of unapologetically anarchistic theatre screams across the stage. There isn’t a point in the performance where the mood lacks, as the arresting performances switch from sober to head-bangingly energetic within seconds. So, the scarcity of plot can almost be forgiven. Despite its’ powerful visual story-telling, American Idiot falls somewhat short in terms of storyline- it’s hard not to feel a little underwhelmed by the end of act one and the finale – points in the performance when an audience should feel really on the edge of their seat or completely riled up. Furthermore, it felt as though some of the choreography was a little bit repetitive and generic after the first half hour- it seemed there’s only so much movement you can come up with in theme with punk-rock paradise. However, the stylistic collision of fantasy and reality, as well as a spectacularly seditious aesthetic, made these flaws easy to overlook.
It’s no secret that Green Day’s music is highly acclaimed, and this show does a fabulous job of showing just why. The show’s inspiring use of live, on-stage music is raw and emotive, and knows how to swell and set the tone at exactly the right moment. Mixes of acoustic and electric instruments are overwhelmingly effective in pulling the audience into moments of numb pain, as well as points of raucous lawlessness; this is why moments of silence are so much more strikingly pitiful. Wake Me Up When September Ends, in particular, is executed in such a beautifully raw, defiant and insensate way, that it feels like it should be the show-stopper. It’s actually hard to believe it’s not.
Every performer in this show displays immense amounts of talent; from their thrilling energy, to their excellent vocals, to their vulnerability on stage. Remarkable harmonies, gritty guitar riffs, drum fills, and moments of sombre violin fuse into one entirely entertaining show. On top of this, parts of the show are actually laugh out loud funny.
Reeking of political rage and anguish, American Idiot shouts explosive rebellion at the audience from start to finish, and the breadth and width of frustration and angst against authority in a cloud of propaganda and asphyxiating suburbia, is rebelliously refreshing. It’s clear that this misfit musical is fit to make even the most brainwashed individual an ungovernable, disaffected revolutionary. Overall, it’s definitely well-worth a visit.
Runs until 1 June 2019 | Image: Mark Dawson