Review: Garage Band by Andy Barrett, Colchester Mercury Theatre, until March 9

Garage Band at The Mercury Theatre Studio

Garage Band at The Mercury Theatre Studio - Credit: Archant

Punk is not Dead. It is well and truly alive, and entertaining audiences in Colchester.

Garage Band at The Mercury Theatre Studio

Garage Band at The Mercury Theatre Studio - Credit: Archant

Andy Barrett’s uplifting play about punk rock and mid-life crisis is full of energy, laugh-out-loud funny and the perfect antidote for anyone who has lost their mojo.

The musical revolves around four characters all in their mid-forties who decide to form a punk band to inject some spark into their humdrum lives.

Each well-rounded character has their foibles: disillusioned Gavin, played by Benedict Relton, is desperate to rediscover the “energy and anger” of punk in a modern world dominated by flat-pack furniture and wine bars while sociology lecturer Danny (Mark Jardine) is more comfortable theorising about the cultural significance of punk than living it.

Ageing wild-child Penny (Liz Kettle) hopes to prove to her teenage daughter that she still has what it takes, and techno-geek Alan (Danny Brown) is simply eager to live out his air guitar fantasies for real.

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On a sparse but effective set, the characters are believable and draw real empathy from the audience, who willingly join them on their journey of self-discovery and musical enlightenment. But the moments of poignancy are few and far between – over-ridden by the sheer energy of the performances during the music scenes. These are real musicians: actor Benedict Relton, whose passion steals the show, even played drums with legendary Clash front man Joe Strummer back in the day.

Songs from The Clash as well as other well-known punk legends such as The Buzzcocks and The Jam are delivered with gusto by the ageing rockers. Their performance reaches a crescendo in the last quarter of the play where a succession of punk classics are interspersed with hilarious video footage of the unlikely quartet on tour.

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You don’t have to be into punk to enjoy this – just up for a rollicking good night out and a willingness to reconnect with your own teenage self. It’s loud, it’s a laugh and the chances are you’ll enjoy it as much as the cast obviously did.

Ross Bentley

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