Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Ferocious… Sid (2016), Above the Arts Theatre, London

Photograph courtesy of Roy Tan

"I got a feeling inside of me, It's kind of strange like a stormy sea…”

From the first thump of Rat Scabies’ drums and the fuzz-chunked guitar of Brian James I was always going to like this play. Anyone who kicks off their punk play with The Damned’s New Rose – the first punk single - knows their new wave history.

Reader, I was that 14-year old boy whose musical world was turned on its head when that single was played on a radio awash with metal, prog and pop-pap in 1976. It was the primal scream of a misunderstood movement that most assuredly is not dead. Even though it burned out… it never faded away.

It was a badge of honour at a time when badges and t-shirts meant everything as a means of differentiating yourself from the norm: a pass to untouchable class when you just don’t want to play the game you know you’re going to lose.

So it is with Leon Fleming’s one-man play about a lad whose best mate died on 2nd February 1979.

Dario Coates photograph by Roy Tan
Craig (an amazing Dario Coates who means it man!) lives at home with his mum and in denial as the World and more specifically, his girlfriend, begin to pass him by. He’s in a rage and finds his frequencies perfectly matched by the three chord thrash of classic punk – everyone from the Dead Kennedys and the Slits through to ska but especially the Sex Pistols and their second bassist, Mr Vicious.

Sid it is who truly embodied the spirit of the time especially as, unlike Johnny Rotten, he had wayward intent enough to die decades before the lure of celebrity culture could dilute his brand equity.

Craig wants to feel Sid’s spirit – he wants it to inhabit him, not in a sexual way – he’s quite particular on that point – but in an empowering way.

Sid’s way, involved drugs, probable murder and a life inelegantly wasted: in comparison with him Craig is very much alive and unlike Sid he has avoided the pitfalls of an American girlfriend like Nancy Spungen, the punk Delilah.

Dario Coates, pic from Darren Elson

Craig’s girl is safely Welsh… and yet no less a source of concern as she moves away from Craig’s cosey world to a university beyond her boyfriend’s academic attainment. Craig goes to visit and humiliated by an overdose of posh Dan's and Tom’s throwing around philosopher’s names “like so much confetti”... cuts himself like Sid in an effort to show his worth.

As Craig reaches crisis point we find out what really drives his interest and the mundane reality of his personality crisis. He may be abandoned by those he loves but he’s not without a home and a mother who understands more than he gives her credit…

It’s hard to understate the bravery of Dario Coates’ performance as he stares down the audience – do you feel lucky punk? – and pulls our attention for intimate exchanges covering the diverse territory of his sexual prowess (he doth protest far too much), the crapiness of Britpop (no argument) and Green Day’s slender claims to be punk. Ironically, the Berkley plastic-punksters have a musical playing downstairs at the Arts Theatre…

Craig reminded me of the kid at school who’d champion Northern Soul – you can’t touch me ‘cos I have this pure and different musical taste – even though he’d probably never been to Wigan. But Coates’ creation is all too vulnerable in his projections of rage – you can see it in his eyes. The kid also has timing to die for and in addition to picking his verbal fights wisely he raised more than a few rueful laughs from an audience ranged from his hated ex-hippies (you know who you are) to those, like me, who just missed out through being too young.

Dario Coates, pic from Darren Elson
By the time I was re-christened Dai O’Reah, guitarist in the virtual band, The Runz (I’m sorry but we were so obnoxiously young...) the boat had sailed and the lesser Pistols where pratting around on a Brazilian beach making records with a great train robber. The form degenerated into power pop, Oi and Sham 69 (sorry Jimmy) as well evolving as the new creative highs of new wave. I was there then, in Liverpool's famous Eric's club for Magazine, John Cooper Clarke, The B52s and even Ed Banger and his Nosebleeds!

Scott le Crass directs with crisp assurance and has brought the best out of his spunky young lead. For all shades of punks: weekenders, old and new alike, Sid is recommended viewing to remind us all that we need to find our self-respect from somewhere when left to our own devices in a world that cares more and more for low-content conformity. Look on Sid Vicious as Craig’s guardian angel… what could possibly go wrong?

Things played out to the Pistols’ Pretty Vacant… we weren't, being that little bit more on our mettle than when we sat down but, either way, remember: we don’t care!

Sid runs from September 19th 2016 – October 8th 2016 at the Above the Arts Theatre in London. You can buy tickets here and follow him on Facebook too.

Arthur's Theatre Rating: *****

Hey Ho, Let’s Go!

The Damned - New Rose

No comments:

Post a Comment