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Punkplay review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘sings its own odd song’

Sam Perry and Matthew Castle in Punkplay at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Helen Murray

Mickey and Duck aren’t London punks. They’re not rage-and-safety-pins punks. They’re two American kids trying to start a band in their garage.

The cast wear roller-skates throughout Tom Hughes’ endearingly lo-fi production but it’s not because they’re about to burst into a big dance number, Xanadu-style. It’s an act of destabilisation.

Gregory S Moss’ 2009 play takes place in Reagan-era America. Mickey and Duck are trying their best to be punks. They’ve styled their hair in the right way, and they’ve learned all three of the requisite chords.

Hughes’ production comes across, at times, as an appealingly geeky mix of Stranger Things and Wayne’s World. Which is fitting, as this is a memory play of sorts, composed with the same care as a mix-tape.

There’s a wayward basement energy to the piece, an appropriately slow and sticky feel. Because, while on one level, this is a piece about the nature of subcultures and what it feels like to ride on the coat-tails of a movement, it’s also a coming of age story, a play about otherness and self-discovery. When the curtains behind them part to display glitter-balls and a drum-kit, it’s a bit like the big final reveal in Pretty in Pink, awesome and sort of sad at the same time.

Cecile Tremolieres’ design is full of just-right period details while Sam Perry and Matthew Castle make a winning double-act. And while some of the script’s wit gets swallowed up, Hughes’ intelligent production sings its own odd song and there are small acts of resistance stitched through the whole thing.

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Intelligent and endearingly lo-fi look at subcultures and growing up