First published on 27 Jul 2012. Updated on 27 Jul 2012.
Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock is not a play about anti-establishment musicians giving it to ‘the man’, set to the soundtrack of Never Mind the Bollocks. Rather, it’s an exposé of upper-middle-class British teenage sensibilities, set in a world of ‘Lily Allen haircuts and Kanye West jackets’. But Pantsguys’ production of Punk Rock, opening at ATYP this month, promises to be Sex Pistols-esque – raw, ballsy, and with an equally high offensive language warning.
Directed by Anthony Skuse, the play tackles bullying, alienation and violence in the angsty, hormone-fuelled cage of the classroom. And whilst there’s plenty of theatre for young people squaring up to bullying right now, actor Graeme McRae insists Punk Rock is worlds apart from the didactic, ‘bullying-is-bad-mkay’ theatre you may be expecting.
“Punk Rock is quite violent, and the violence takes place while everybody’s watching; right in front of their faces,” McRae says. “Instead of telling kids, ‘this is what you’re doing’, it confronts them with the situation and makes them think: What should you do about this? What would you do about this?”
Fraser Corfield, ATYP’s artistic director, recently tweeted: “Don’t pitch us a theme. Pitch us a story. We don't want a play about ‘bullying’.” Whilst McRae can’t say if this was pointed directly at Pantsguys, he agrees with what Corfield is saying.
“When you simply discuss an issue in theatre, it’s easy to distance yourself or switch off,” McRae says. “Without an interesting dramatic story for the characters to live in, there’s no reason to care about what happens to them; and if the audience doesn’t care, your message is going no where. A gripping story is paramount to any production.”
And McRae assures us that with Punk Rock, that’s exactly what we’re going to get.
“In this play, there’s no switching off – it feels real, and that’s what’s so scary.”
Pantsguys production of Punk Rock opens on July 25 at ATYP Studio 1 as part of ATYP’s Under the Wharf initiative.