Punk Rock is a play of visceral social paradigms in a grammar school sixth-form, intense and irresistibly absorbing with the right cast and direction. The Bath Spa Theatre Society is the right cast, and Charlotte Claydon is the right director. Her version of Simon Stephens’s play doesn’t cling to the text for support, but builds around it with the confidence and subtlety one would expect from a professional production, using a talented cast to its greatest effect.
Ollie Robinson-Sivyer’s Bennett is a brutally despicable bully, intimidating the audience as much as his on-stage classmates, whilst also injecting enough humanity to avoid caricature. With skilful nuance, Rebecca Davey is completely transformed as the sympathetically anxious Tanya, giving a performance in the climax so unnervingly binding that, without her, it wouldn’t stand.
When performing together, the cast is simply electric. On the peripheries of the main action, powerful scenes are oiled at the hinges for a sublime group dynamic: Megan Robertson’s Cissy is the perfect queen bee, believing herself the centre of attention whether it’s true or not, whilst Millie Thurley trades her otherwise manipulative confidence for genuine unease as Lilly. The audience was particularly enamoured by Spike Hart as William Carlisle, whose performance is at turns eccentric, uncanny, and always gripping.
Minor faults did show through on occasion. Some characters didn’t hold as much life as others, more evident in down-moments than group commotion, and crucial moments could have benefited from better sound effects. However, for an ‘amateur’ production, the audience wouldn’t notice it as one. Easy laughs break suddenly to pin-drop silence; when Punk Rock reaches the heights of its intensity the reaction in the audience is palpable.
Bath Spa Theatre Society’s Punk Rock is an impressive piece of theatre. I’ve got a ticket for Saturday night’s performance, and I can’t wait to see it again.
**** – 4 Stars