American Idiot – an idiotic production from start to finish

I really do normally try to be positive with my reviews, trying to find a glimmer of hope even for the most painfully boring or irritating of productions. But unfortunately American Idiot has little to recommend it – no, worse – it has little to dissuade me not to urge people never to go and see this show.

The disgusting creation from Green Day’s lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer has little to no plot or point at all, set in a strange dystopian rebel universe. The show is loosely strung together by Green Day songs, with barely any dialogue letting the audience know what the hell’s meant to be going on. It’s like an incoherent punk ballet, where we’re left to fill in the gaping plot holes. Essentially (I think) the story follows three vile delinquents as they try to bring down the establishment in their own different ways. One stays at home, has a baby and feels thoroughly left out. One gets drawn into the murky world of drugs and the other goes to war. It doesn’t end well for any of them, and in the end they just decide to go back to the start, pack up, go home and just grumble at the establishment from the comfort of their own sofas.

It’s worth caveating that I don’t actually know if that’s the plot, or the point of the story, because I could barely understand it as strange meaningless Green Day songs hardly act as a script. It’s a shame, because I’m a fan of Green Day songs but I’ll never listen to their songs again without them being thoroughly tainted by the two hour horror we experienced watching American Idiot.

The direction and choreography from Racky Plews is laughable at best, disgusting at worst. If “choreography” is gurning and sticking your middle finger up, then I really have lost all hope for the arts. I was sick of the violent, juvenile choreography and rude expressions after the first song.  Someone really needs to tell Racky Plews the expression ‘it’s not big and it’s not clever.’ It’s almost funny when the grubby looking ensemble burst into angelic harmony – hardly leaders of the next great rebellion. It would be a joke from start to finish if it weren’t designed to be provocative and offensive, and I certainly see no joy in spending an evening watching a group of youths pretend to inject themselves, cut themselves, snort-God-knows-what, nearly shoot themselves and just generally run around like yobs. Oddly enough, this is exactly the kind of thing I tend to avoid in real life, let alone see as a form of ‘art’.

Designer Sara Perks and Costume Designer Sarah Mercade do a decent enough job of creating an environment of filth and slum-like grimness. I don’t like it, but at least they’ve stuck to the brief.

Tom Milner is hideous as Johnny, though I guess he’s meant to be. Same goes for all of them, really. The voices of Luke Friend (St Jimmy) and Siobhan O’Driscoll (Heather) are about the only good thing I can salvage from the wreckage of this abhorrent production. I’d like to see Luke Friend in a different show, because I think he’s got real potential to be one of the next ‘big things’ in musical theatre – it’s a shame this is his professional musical theatre debut really.

The worst part of this show, by far, was the audience’s reaction. It was a relatively empty theatre yet the audience members seemed delighted at the end of the show, giving a rapturous applause and standing ovation. So clearly I’m missing something big time, but I fail to see exactly what.

See for yourself, if you like. The show runs at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford until 15th June.

PLEASE NOTE – THIS IS NOT A SHOW SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN. I’d argue it’s unsuitable for anyone under the age of 18. We were sat next to a tiny little girl, possibly of the age of about 8 or 9, whose father felt it appropriate to bring her along to this musical. Appalling parenting, but equally appalling of any venue who allows parents to book and attend this show with their kids. So please, I urge you, keep your poor young children away from this scummy show.


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