American Idiot, presented by Shake & Stir Theatre Co and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, is the most important and urgent piece of art you need to consume in 2017.
I suppose I could just leave that statement and call this review a day. However, to put your curious minds at ease, I will elaborate.
I entered the theatre as a fan of Green Day, equipped with the knowledge that the album American Idiot was a response to the mess caused by the Bush government and the trauma felt by the American population post 9/11. What I didn’t expect was that I would leave the theatre as moved, terrified and enraged as I did. This is what I believe great art has the power to do. It starts conversation, rebellion and an uprising. They say history repeats itself, but I don’t think it’s too out there to claim that Billie Joe Armstrong was prophetic when he released these thoughts, lyrics and melodies to the world.
Craig Ilott’s direction was simple and direct. It allowed for the messy rage felt by these young characters, trying to make sense of the screwed up world, to have the room they needed. His insistent use of projections that any 21st century human would recognise only drove home the message further.
Ben Bennett’s performance as Johnny was admirable. His talents, as both a vocalist and musician, were showcased impeccably throughout the piece. His performance as an actor was one I didn’t expect. The vulnerability achieved in his portrayal definitely resonated amongst the audience, allowing them to understand the pain experienced by a lost twenty-something. Bennett lead the ensemble with an unshakable energy, strength and honesty.
Phoebe Panaretos delivered a divine performance as Whatsername, providing the perfect counterbalance to Bennett’s Johnny. The number ‘Letterbomb’ was definitely a clear standout, showcasing Panaretos’ incredible vocal chops backed by the power of the female ensemble.
Alex Jeans, Cameron MacDonald, Ashleigh Barlow, Rowena Vilar and the ensemble all performed with the perfect amount of passion, rage and expertise. I personally cannot remember having seen an ensemble of actors this strong in a musical, ever.
The set, designed by Josh McIntosh, was an extremely justified homage to Rent. Maybe it was just me, but the ghosts of those artists who struggled in the late 80’s and early 90’s were present within the performance sharing their energy and rage at our still-failing society. This homage to Rent continued with the use of camera work, incorporated into the scenes with a live feed projected onto the numerous televisions covering the set.
John Taylor’s incredible sound design transformed the QPAC Playhouse into a concert venue and allowed the skill of the remarkable musicians, who played tirelessly throughout the show, to be highlighted perfectly.
American Idiot is a tight and energetic show that will provide an epic night out at the theatre, however it will also spark rage within you at our current political climate. If you take anything from this show, it should be that we as a society need to go out in the world and fight for what is really worth fighting for.
American Idiot plays at the QPAC Playhouse until March 12.
To book tickets head to www.qpac.com.au