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22 February 2013


Garage Band
Mercury Theatre Company
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Friday 22nd February 2013

The first 'Made in Colchester' production of the year takes place in the intimate Studio at the Mercury.  An ideal location for the garage setting of this witty play, that fondly reminisces over the reign of Punk.

A talented cast of just four actor-musicians make up the group of middle-aged rockers, living in the "15th most pleasant village in the country", with lives about as far from being described as "Punk" as it is possible to be.  However, a shared love of the music of The Damned, Buzzcocks and Lynrd Skynrd pulls these four away from their boring work, demanding children and addictive computer games to come together in Gavin's garage and play the songs of their Punk youths.

The narrative of Andy Barrett's play centres on the progression of this unlikely band, through early rehearsals, their first gig, a local tour, and gives us brief insights into their home lives as well as their increasingly overlapping relationships.  Drummer Gavin (Benedict Relton) leads the band and is the driving force behind their progression.  Ranting in a succession of Punk-ish clichés he begins as an angry stereotype, but as his costume descends into almost fancy dress we begin to see genuine emotion behind the raging mask.  Danny (Mark Jardine) is far more fickle in his approach, allowing his hobby to begin to absorb more and more of his time, but ultimately prioritising his work and family above the needs of the band.  He has some of the wittiest moments of the play, and as the lead singer is the front man for selling the musical numbers which he does with genuine charisma.  Geeky Alan (Danny Brown), lead guitarist, has honed his skills playing Guitar Hero and values his successes based on an online presence.  It is his nerdy skills that boost the band's status, as the endearing character triumphs over his untechnical doubters in a charming performance.  Single mother Penny (Liz Kettle) uses her bass guitar and membership of the band to recall the freedom of her youth, before early pregnancies forced her to override her rebellious nature with realistic settling down.  

The story, though entertaining, could possibly be told just as successfully in a slicker and more succinct script, but the loud, energetic live music is ideally pitched and excellently performed.  Well rounded performances from this accomplished cast in a production with much to enjoy, especially for those with fond memories of their Punk years.

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