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American Idiot review at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – ‘raucous revival of the Green Day musical’

Tom Milner and the cast of American Idiot. Photo: Mark Dawson
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Written at a time when US politics seemed merely infuriating rather than numbingly awful, punk outfit Green Day’s American Idiot brimmed with angst and anger. That frustration has only grown deeper in the intervening years, but this remount of Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer’s subversive Broadway hit makes no effort to reframe the show for our current moment.

Instead, director Racky Plews revels in the timeless squalor, stupidity, and exuberance of adolescent rebellion, with dense nonverbal interactions implying the beats of a threadbare story of teenage dropouts searching for meaning in the aftermath of September 11th.

Serving as front man, Tom Milner alternately swaggers and staggers as wannabe rocker Johnny, wallowing in drugs and disappointment. Luke Friend throws a little Bobcat Goldthwait into his take on Johnny’s drug-guzzling alter ego St Jimmy, squealing and purring his way through the numbers, while Sam Lavery does what she can to bring some personality to a painfully underwritten part as love-interest Whatsername.

Designer Sara Perks provides an atmospheric set in the form of a crumbling suburban underworld of spray-painted concrete and rusty chain link fences. Perched overhead, a tight band smashes out an almost unbroken stream of inescapably catchy tunes with energy and precision. Meanwhile, the crisply-organised chaos of Plews’ choreography pulls from mosh pit posturing, juxtaposing whiplash head-banging, air guitar, and marching-band high kicks.

There’s no denying the production’s energy or musical quality, but like its protagonists, it can’t help but feel a little overwrought and directionless.

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Verdict
Raucous revival of Green Day’s thinly-plotted pop-punk musical
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