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Theatre Review: American Idiot - Arts Theatre, London ✭✭✭

American Idiot

Arts Theatre, London
Review by Emma Curry


From the rubbish-strewn, graffiti-marked stage, the punky, holey costumes, and the thumping opening riff of ‘American Idiot’, it’s clear that this show isn’t going to be your usual kind of musical. Based around Green Day’s 2004 concept album, the Arts Theatre’s new production is an almost entirely sung-through show which draws upon lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong’s vision of a claustrophobic, stymied, TV-dominated cultural landscape in which choices are limited and dreams are short-circuited. The story focuses upon three childhood friends, who each hope to leave their hometown and pursue their musical dreams in the big city. Will (Steve Rushton) chooses to remain at home with his pregnant girlfriend, Tunny (Alexis Gerred) is drawn into the army by a hilariously glitzy recruitment video, and frontman Johnny (Aaron Sidwell) falls into a downward spiral of drink and drug addiction.

Whilst the story matter is at times rather bleak, the energy and imagination of the staging make this show visually spectacular: there are some incredibly creative and striking uses of the space, including a joyful rendition of ‘Holiday’ on a bus, with guitar cases doubling as the front wheels and shopping trolleys as the seats, and a spectacular hospital dream sequence for ‘Extraordinary Girl’, in which Raquel Jones comforts wounded-in-action Tunny through the amputation of his leg in an amazing fairy-light-rigged angel/butterfly costume, which looks like something Grace Jones would be very happy to count within her wardrobe.

The ensemble work seamlessly together throughout, and it was clear from the enthusiastic closing rendition of ‘Time of Your Life’ that they’re having an absolute ball performing this show each night. Special mention should go to Aaron Sidwell, who spends almost the entire show on stage and thoroughly engages the audience through each stage of Johnny’s slow, agonising downward spiral. Lucas Rush is charismatic and compelling as St. Jimmy, Johnny’s wickedly destructive alter ego. The show also boasts a familiar face in X Factor alumnus Amelia Lily, although, aside from one powerful solo number, it’s a shame that she doesn’t get given more to do here.

Whilst the songs are expertly performed throughout, I did feel that the production needed more dialogue in its quieter moments in order to draw out the themes it was reflecting upon. Without this, the show has a rather disjointed feel to it, with slightly jerky links from one song to another and little chance for the characters (especially the female characters) to really develop. At times it’s a little unclear exactly where the story is headed, and a slightly expanded book would really help to open up the ramifications of Armstrong’s lyrics.

Nevertheless, fans of Green Day will enjoy seeing these songs being brought to life so expertly and enthusiastically on the stage. In its youthful, riotous shout of rebellion, the show also offers a refreshingly hopeful message at its close. If you’re looking for an alternative take on the musical form, this is one to watch.

Three stars ✭✭✭


Listings Info

ARTS THEATRE
Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB
020 7836 8463


PERFORMANCE TIMES

Tuesday - Saturday 8.00pm

Satruday - 2.30pm

Sunday 3.00pm and 6.00pm

Running Time - 90 minutes (no interval)


TICKET PRICES

£15, £20, £32.50, £45, £55, £65



GROUP RATES

Call the Box Office to book on 020 7836 8643

Groups 20+ - £25

Groups 10+ - £32.50

Groups 6+ - £35

Valis on best available seats from Tuesday - Friday and Sunday


PARKING AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Leicester Square Underground

Charing Cross Underground and National Rail

Parking in China town and Trafalgar Square


ACCESS

To discuss access requirments and rates please call the Box Office

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