”All the cast and crew deserve huge praise” – Drama Review: Punk Rock @ NNT

Isabelle Hunter

A play about a group of schoolchildren taking their A Levels in Stockport turns dark when mixed with raging hormones and exam stress. The Nottingham New Theater performance of Simon Stephens punk-rock had the audience on the edge of their seats throughout. Opinion of Isabelle Hunter.

“You have to see this room” is what I said to my roommates after seeing punk-rock at the NST. I left breathless while laughing and crying; an undeniably incredible production that left every member of the audience trembling with fear and captivation.

From what appears to be an innocent school in Manchester, depicting scenes of twisted romance, heartbreak and teenage life, the story begins to unfold as William Carlisle (played by Abraham ‘Jake’ Botha) breaks down into an unforgivable moment.

Immediately, the play takes on the appearance of a comedy. Botha’s portrayal of William is innocent and naive, with the audience bursting into laughter with every sentence. From the subtle details, such as the way his uniform is slightly too big, to the way he sits with his hands neatly in his lap, something seems ever so slightly off with this character, and it’s fascinating.

[Bennett] had the audience stunned to complete silence; you could hear a fly drop

His character development from the moment we meet him is clear throughout, as we see the deterioration of his mental state through small (and some big) gestures. The way he clenched his fists, or just stared through his hair while shaking his head slightly, made us all question his next move.

Bennett (played by Charlie Bellwood) was utterly terrifying in every move he made. The contrast between the way he treats Chadwick (William Morgan) and his girlfriend Cissy (Ella Seber-Rajan) stunned the audience to complete silence; you could hear a fly drop. Nicolas’ (Isaac Pengelly) charm oozed from the stage with every word, and Tanya’s (Chiedza McNab) shy but strong personality shone through. Finally, Kishan Ganatra’s portrayal of Dr. Richard Harvey showed a wave of fresh air and calm after the previous scene.

There were times when you felt sorry for William. Sympathy rushed over me, especially during his interactions with Lilly (Emily Rule). However, (no spoilers!) can we just talk about the heart of the piece towards the end? As Botha stood on the desk, her face was carefully lit to resemble that of children telling a horror story around a campfire. I immediately felt propelled into the world of the play and physically cowered away from Botha in my seat, hoping he wasn’t catching my attention in the audience.

The set design (Jack Titley) allowed for seamless character interaction with each scene, while maintaining a very realistic depiction of a classic high school library, one that every audience member knows. The set included plastic chairs, desks and even a bulletin board on the wall. A trophy case has been carefully placed at the back of the stage.

The transitions set a clear contrast between the play’s tense and comedic moments, allowing the audience to breathe quickly before the next scene. Pink and blue lights (designed by Patrick Richards) swirled across the stage, representing concert-like lighting, while rock music played loudly throughout the auditorium. A neutral white wash was used for most scenes in the play; I felt it heightened the intense moments of the performance as it allowed us to fully concentrate on performing on stage.

She brought the play to life in a way that gripped the audience every second.

Admittedly, I entered the theater a little worried about the duration. Without an interval, I felt jittery like someone having trouble concentrating for long periods of time. However, that didn’t matter. Hours felt like minutes watching this cast, and I dared not take my eyes off the stage.

Rachel Cushions as director captured the essence of punk-rock incredibly well. She brought the piece to life in a way that gripped the audience at every second. All the cast and crew deserve huge praise, especially Helena Hunt as producer. I urge everyone to go see this performance at NNT, it’s truly remarkable.

Isabelle Hunter


Image courtesy of Nottingham New Theater via Facebook. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes have been made to this image.

Images in the article courtesy of @punkrock.nnt via @instagram.com. No changes have been made to these images.

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Diana J. Carleton