American Idiot – Arts Theatre

L - R Lucas Rush (St. Jimmy), Newton Faulkner (Johnny) - American Idiot UK Tour - Photos by Darren Bell (2242)

Lucas Rush and Newton Faulkner in American Idiot at the Arts Theatre, London. Picture: Darren Bell

American Idiot continues at the Arts Theatre, London until 25 September.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★

America’s days of anarchy following the tragic events of 9/11 may seem long ago. A snapshot of history when torn fishnet tights and gel-sodden, gravity-defying hair became a trend for young Americans – a generation feeling as if they were living in a ‘land that don’t believe in me’.

Green Day, known for their hectic gigs, black eye kohl and rebellious nature, had their first taste of success in the 1990s. However, it was their 2004 album American Idiot that inspired theatre director Michael Mayer (best known for his staging of the musical adaptation of Spring Awakening) to collaborate with lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and collectively write the book for this Grammy-winning musical (it also boosted the band’s popularity).

Six years after it first rocketed onto Broadway, Green Day’s American Idiot, a raucous punk opera, revisits the alienation of a post 9/11 world through the eyes of three childhood friends, Johnny, Tunny and Will.

Each searching for a new purpose after believing they have been ‘born and raised by hypocrites’, their boyhood friendships shatter as they each embark on new adventures. Tunny is a victim of the media, and becomes obsessed with patriarchy and power. His obsession eventually causes the colours of the TV screen to change from black and white to those of the American flag and he enlists in the Army. Will is faced with the haunting mission of becoming a father, while ring-leader Johnny elopes into a world of drugs and rebellion.

The audience is brashly catapulted into the world of the performance by an incredibly talented cast, enhanced by a gifted, powerful ensemble and set of musicians. It is this element of the performance that allows the production to excel.

Steve Rushton plays the role of dad-to-be Will with such passion and gives the character a likeability too.

Newton Faulkner gives troubled drug addict and freedom fighter Johnny a rebellious demeanour. Yet, his performance is also peppered with elements of sincerity, especially during solo number ‘When It’s Time’.

Faulkner’s performance is also complemented by the work of Amelia Lily, who plays Johnny’s lover. Although her powerful and impressive vocals seem to be greatly underused, she gives a striking performance and fits the character of Whatsername well.

However, one of the greatest joys of the show is watching the notorious St Jimmy; a wild character complete with a platinum mohican and neck choker, played magnificently by the talented Lucas Rush, who really brings the hectic and rebellious nature of young Americans to life.

With the focus on Green Day tracks (13 of its 22 songs are drawn from the American Idiot album) the story too often seems to fade into a blur of uncertainty and the main thrust of narrative becomes lost within an over-whelming sea of lyrics. However, perhaps this is inevitable in such a music-driven performance with little additional dialogue.

But these concerns are ultimately forgotten when the audience is thrown one head-banging hit after another, all concisely and neatly wrapped into an enjoyable show of 100 minutes.

Polly Sisley

Tickets for American Idiot at the Arts Theatre are available HERE.

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