“I can go anywhere for something new,” sings The Who’s Pete Townshend in the 1965 single Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere – the Mod anthem that lends Douglas Maxwell’s new two-hander its title.
The exact opposite, though, is true of its protagonist Jimmy, a refugee whose asylum claim is pending with the Home Office, and who believes that the secret to staying in the UK is in emphasising his fully-fledged allegiance to Mod culture – the music, the look, the haircut, everything.
Jimmy – played by a wonderfully fidgety Nebli Basani – seeks out Stevie, a jaded academic who once wrote a book on youth movements, for a reference. Over 80 minutes, the two of them chat and argue about Mod culture. Things get sad. Things get heated.
The somewhat strange premise aside, I Can Go Anywhere is an absorbing, intelligent play that takes on a set of tricky topics – our need for identity, our desire for originality, and mainstream society’s tendency to absorb and anaesthetise subversive subcultures – and dramatises them with wit and wisdom.
Eve Nicol’s production plays out energetically in a sparsely furnished living room, and features two top-notch performances from Paul McCole as Stevie, ceaselessly swilling red wine and pontificating, and Basani, whose Jimmy is an endlessly watchable, incessantly shambling livewire. “Spot-on, man!” he cries, about 50 times.
We never find out where he’s from, or what he’s fleeing, but we don’t really need to. That, says Maxwell, is the essence of Mod. You can go anyway, anyhow, anywhere. And be anyone.