Last Updated on 22nd September 2016
Above The Arts
21 September 2016
If the last you heard of Sid Vicious was seeing Gary Oldman gradually die of heroin addiction in Alex Cox’s 1986 biopic, ‘Sid ‘n’ Nancy’, you will be delighted to hear that he’s back – and every bit as corrosive and destructive as he was then. Well, nearly.
This is all thanks to terrific new writer, Leon Fleming, who has rejuvenated the 62-year old mythic figure via the obsessive, manic, troublesome, 18-year-old’ish revolutionary-living-at-home-with-his-mum, Craig. Our hero in this one-act drama is not the taciturn, sneering, wincing guitarist of The Sex Pistols, but a despot only in his own bedroom, a tyrant merely to his lone parent and neighbours (whom he intermittently deafens with blasts of punk music from his personal music centre). Craig has a list – of course – of pet hates, and this forms the substance (ah, substances….) of his ‘discourse’, which is an aggressive tirade – nay, harangue! – against all the evils and wrongs which offend his innate sense of what is right, just and proper. Yes, this is the world of Punk, where there is no rule but anarchy, and that rule is rigidly enforced! Oh, yes, and anarchy must be expressed in a set of precisely codified ways, and woe betides anyone who does not measure up to what is expected of them! We admire the fluency and speed (oh, yes, speed….) with which he attacks us, both from the vantage point of the stage, and also in erratic sorties into the body of the audience itself. He wears budget punk attire, which – albeit monotonous – nevertheless does look regularly laundered (by his mum, no doubt!).
Although he does not appear to have any friends (a fact that does not surprise us), we are astonished to discover that he has a girlfriend. Or, rather, had. The doxy has run away to ‘uni’, thereby alerting us to her less than certain punk credentials. While Craig embraces the ‘official’ punk credo of ‘No Future!’, this simply isolates him from everybody else he encounters. But it does not isolate Dario Coates, the superb young actor who brings him to life in this one-man show: Dario is not only the hero that is Craig made flesh, he becomes – by quicksilver turns – every other character that Craig meets. He relates to us his journey to his girlfriend’s ‘uni’ town, and conversations between her and him and her ‘uni friends’ are brilliantly rendered with rapid-fire dialogue, with Coates switching with razor-sharp accuracy in split-second repartee between up to half a dozen voices at a time. It’s an electrifying performance.
Predictably – to us, the visit to the ‘uni’ does not go well, and its aftermath is even less wonderful. At about this time, we fully appreciate how little Craig understands the world around him: he is, in fact, little more than a naif. When his girlfriend terminates their (now rather long-distance and strained) relationship, he is genuinely stunned, in an unexpected loss of power and confidence that begins to make him sympathetic rather than just another annoying, stroppy late-teen. But the real winner, in our hearts, is the dazzling artistry of Coates, managing the psychological switches with such high-wire dare-devilry, who makes us care about his destiny, and makes us want Craig to care, too. When he unleashes the character’s fury, it comes as an affront to someone we now cherish, and the explosion is deeply troubling in the way that, say, that O’Neill or Chekov makes you care about the destructive despair of their careless and uncared for characters.
Enabling all this to happen is the clever triumvirate of Coates, Fleming and the director, Scott Le Crass. Each brings to the party a specific enthusiasm for some different and contrasting elements of contemporary theatre and youth culture. Thrown into the mixture together, this piece has so far grown from a 15-minute sketch into a much more elaborated and developed monodrama. Producer Andrea Leoncini is backing this development process, with his able creative and production teams. Who knows where it might go next. Right now, it’s gigging at Above The Arts. Catch it.
Until 8th October
Photos: Roy Tan