Review By Gillian Potter-Merrigan
In the world of the disenchanted and disenfranchised the American Idiot is King; or so it would seem. Watching American Idiot, the musical based around the songs of Green Day and which is currently on its 10 year anniversary tour, seems like an allegorical tale of our current times. Disaffection, distrust and disengagement with a media opium world controlled envelop our three main characters. The three amigos from the same town all destined to make very different life changes but each one getting nowhere.
The musical tells the tale of three young men; Johnny, Declan and Tunny who grow tired of their diet of minimarts, carparks and videogames and decide there is more to life and it involves a bus ride out of there. Well, for two of them. Declan is stopped in his tracks by Heather, his newly pregnant girlfriend and stays behind assuming the role of deadbeat dad, more interested in his video games than his offspring – American Idiot Number 1. The remaining two, Johnny and Tunny, make it to the bigger city where searching to belong Tunny is sucked into joining the Army only to go to war and come back an amputee; regarded by Johnny as American Idiot Number 2.
Finally Johnny, the one who would be streetwise, finds an outlet for his frustration in the hollow world of the hedonist and starts down the path of drugs. The bright lights and the glitter turning to powder and needles. American Idiot Number 3. A final realisation by Johnny alongside Tunny’s return from the Army takes us full circle with the two friends returning home changed and yet still the same. Still looking for something, a place, a reason to be. All American idiots in their own way; the deadbeat dad, the soldier, the drug addict; at least the drug addict has to clarity to realise that his step father was right, he’ll never amount to much with his self-loathing.
As a production it is energetic. Song after song merges into one with up-tempo set pieces which are well choreographed by director/choreographer Racky Plews but there is little in the way of dialogue in-between to give any sense of the passage of time. It is only when Johnny sings Wake me Up When September Ends that the watcher realises that the story has covered nine months. The power of delivery is there and the idea of pace, of abandonment and the confusion of time moving around our three central characters.
However there are a few issues with the sound; on occasion the band is too loud for the vocalists and the vocals of St Jimmy, played by X Factor’s Luke Friend, are at times difficult to understand. The three central roles are confidently played by Tom Milner (Johnny), Christian Tyler-Wood (Declan) and Joshua Dowen (Tunny) although there is a sense that the role of Declan is underutilised with the storyline preferring the concentrate on the descent into drugs and casual sex of Johnny.
The return of Johnny and Tunny to their hometown at the end of the musical also leaves little in the way on onward narrative. Perhaps that is how is is. Maybe they never change – as the song says “this is who I am”. Stand out performances by Siobhan O’Driscoll as Heather in a small but powerful role as Declan’s girlfriend, Whatsername provided by Sam Lavery also of the X Factor who leaves Johnny and thus provides the realisation for the character that he is going nowhere and Tom Milner himself as the drugged up Johnny; especially effective in his injection of drugs scene are bright moments of the musical. The cast work well together, the dance set pieces are a joy to watch and for any fan of Green Day it will be a treat.