Theatre Review: Punk Rock @ The Lantern
by Danni Gillespie

Photo credit: Paul Blackmore for Bristol Old Vic.

Dramatic, intense and captivating; Punk Rock is a stark production of the pressures, mental health concerns and desires of sixth form students of a private grammar school. Static radio consisting of intermittent announcements, news broadcasts and harsh punk rock tracks introduces you to the school’s old library. The is the setting for the entire play, where the relationships of seven young students develop (The Breakfast Club, anybody?). With incredible direction from Lisa Gregan and presented by the Bristol Old Vic Young Company, this is a phenomenal and immediate exploration of the mounting pressures on young people today.


We first are introduced to William and Lilly. Lilly, angsty and hardened to anything life has to throw at her, is a new student and delighted by the eccentric William’s quick talking, observational humour. He tells her that this library isn’t used by many and, for this very reason, it’s his favourite place.


The audience is introduced to five more characters that frequent this forgotten library. Bennett, Cissy, Nicholas, Tanya and Chadwick are presented, and immediately old memories and stereotypes from our own past school libraries come to mind. These characters take the audience on a journey of the pressures of exams, sex and mental health. As the tale unfolds, the relationships become strained. Cissy becomes less able to defend Bennett’s verbal abuse towards her, Lilly and Nicholas hide their relationship from everyone and the tension mounts.

Bennett (Jack Orozco Morrison) starts as a loveable but lazy character, then revels himself to be a bully, torturing Chadwick. These scenes are intense; the audience were on the very edges of their seats, gasping at the shouted, bitter phrases that are simply unsuitable for print. Morrison portrayed Bennett astoundingly, from the foul language to physical intimidation. Chadwick (Toby Pritchard) is highly memorable, conveying the injustice of every underdog who did not deserve the torment they received. His monologue was delivered with breath-taking and brutal emotion: ‘Everything human beings do finishes up bad in the end. Everything good human beings ever make is built for something monstrous. Nothing lasts, we certainly won’t…’

‘Everything human beings do finishes up bad in the end. Everything good human beings ever make is built for something monstrous. Nothing lasts, we certainly won’t’

William starts off as a slightly odd but lovable character, but as time goes on his mental health becomes more and more questionable. He deteriorates significantly and his relationships with the other characters become strained, which ends in tragedy – sadly, a devastating end to many young adult’s lives. Mental health among young people is often misunderstood or down-played, it was refreshing to see a cast and actor portray this so well. 


This production offers a real insight into the exam factory culture and immense pressure young people are subjected to. It poses important questions about the way the system handles vulnerable children, about relationships and about mental health. A truly intense and thought-provoking production, a must see that offers brutal and honest insight.


Punk Rock runs at The Lantern until 13 January 2018. Book tickets here.

Check out our gallery to see more of the production, photos courtesy of Bristol Old Vic Young Company. 


Photo credit: Paul Blackmore for Bristol Old Vic.

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