Theatre Review: American Idiot

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Following Green Day’s highly anticipated Glasgow gig being spectacularly cancelled last week, merely hours before show time, a youth theatre group are seeking to revive the spirits of Scottish Green Day fans. Shoogly Peg Productions showcase their adaptation of the 2009 Broadway musical American Idiot over two nights in Edinburgh’s impressive King’s Theatre.

American Idiot is a sung-through theatrical adaptation of Green Day’s 2004 punk rock opera album of the same name. The show features hits including the title track, Jesus of Suburbia, Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, St Jimmy, She’s a Rebel, Whatsername, and Wake Me Up When September Ends.

Both the album and stage adaptation were massively critically acclaimed and won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album. The iconic concept album and stage show takes the audience on a painted journey of love, heartbreak, war, drug abuse, and broken dreams. The work is now a beloved fan favourite which the Shoogly Peg cast strive to recreate with their energetic adaptation.

Telling the story of three jaded friends, desperate to escape small town minds, Johnny, Tunny, and Will plan to leave home for the bright lights of New York. Their grand plans, however, soon go awry as Johnny turns to chemical love and drug misuse, Tunny is wounded while serving on the frontline, and Will is forced to stay behind with his pregnant girlfriend.

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As Jingletown is transported from America to The Kings, the cast open with enthusiastic, multidimensional performances with talented lead vocalists and minor roles alike each having their moment in the limelight. While the performances are convincing, sincere, and passionate, the area in which the production is lacking something essential is the sound and lighting arrangements. As the technical aspects of any theatrical production can make or break a performance, there is a sense that the production needs the volume whacked up and more artistic direction and intensity in the lighting choices.

At certain moments, delicate and powerful solo performances are drowned out by the music with the volume of the band and the performers being slightly out of sync. If the volume of the 4-piece live band and the performers ramped up and pounded from the speakers, that electric, face-melting, rock gig atmosphere would be easily achievable for this dedicated and diverse cast.

While there are some small technical hitches, the cast effortlessly recover from these minor setbacks with cool professionalism and only use them to spur on their performance.

The obvious rapport between the actors portraying Johnny and his evil, masochistic, drug-fuelled alter ego St Jimmy is undeniable. The twinned pair have real chemistry on stage, struggling between their love for anarchy and ecstasy and a bitterly toxic mindset of violence and self-destruction.

Among the highlights are the female lead performances showing off some real vocal acrobatics and presence on stage. Additionally, the moments in which the entire 52-person strong company come together during crescendos is when their portrayal of teen angst, political anger, rebellion, and passion truly shines.

2nd July 2016, St Stephens, Edinburgh. Shoogly Peg Theatre Company perform Green Day's American Idiot

2nd July 2016, St Stephens, Edinburgh. Shoogly Peg Theatre Company perform Green Day’s American Idiot

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