Meeting Joe Strummer (2009)

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Poster by Emma Baines

by Paul Hodson

Directed by Mark Ireson

Performances: Tuesday 20th – Saturday 24th January 2009, Prompt Corner


Introduction

So you saw the name of the play and your interest was piqued, but what did you think it’s about? Perhaps an anodyne “Buddy”-style Story Of The Clash; or maybe some inane jukebox musical along the lines of “We Will Rock You”? Kindly think again.

Paul Hodson has written a perceptive, funny and hard-hitting play about male friendship, integrity and the struggle to retain youthful idealism in the face of life’s bitter blows, which was an Edinburgh Festival First winner in 2006 and toured the UK in 2007. SLT's production will be the amateur premiere of this passionate comedy.

Fortysomethings Nick and Steve meet again for the first time in years at a gig by Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros. They have seen a lot since they first met as teenagers watching The Clash play the Rock Against Racism rally at Victoria Park in 1978: divorce, class warfare, acid house, the bleak Thatcher years and even soap stardom, but the flame of punk idealism – what they describe as the “inner Strummer” – has never quite gone out.

Have they done what they wanted in their lives? Can they put their past differences behind them? And - most importantly - will they meet their hero Joe Strummer?

With a cast of only two, rapid jump cuts in time and place between scenes and nowhere to hide in the extremely intimate acting space in Prompt Corner, the play needs actors who are enthusiastic, imaginative, adaptable and brave.

Dave Chaisty will be well known to SLT audiences: this will be his eleventh part here in three years, including Straight And Narrow, Private Lives, Aladdin, The Winter’s Tale and Tomfoolery.

After a range of Shakespearean roles elsewhere, Philip Gill recently returned to SLT in Elegies For Angels, Punks And Raging Queens. His previous performances here include Road, Two, Translations and Female Transport.

I am delighted to have such a strong and versatile cast who have been coming to rehearsals brimming with ideas, most of them far better than mine. This has been a truly collaborative production. I hope you enjoy it even more than we have.

Mark Ireson

Cast

Crew


Reviews

From the SLT discussion board:

  • "This is a lively and captivating production. I just loved the dynamic energy the 2 actors have brought to this piece. Steve (Dave Chaisty) travels back and forth in age with such ease I knew immediately whether he was a teenager or fully fledged adult of various decades. Nick (Philip Gill) is great as the rebel; stand-up and 'Ender actor!'. This is a story about a friendship travelling its turbulent path with Joe Strummer being the glue that holds them together. You must go see and experience the Clash fans in operation." Hazel
  • "If Philip Gill could bottle whatever it is that gives him that amazing energy and bounce, he would make a fortune. This is an excellent performance and a lot of work. Amazingly, his energy levels don't change as he changes age from 16 to 46 and back again and inbetween, but the way that he moves changes subtly to reflect his age in the different scenes. Dave has a broader range of emotions to play as his character goes through more trials and difficulties over the span of their friendship. Again, body language is used to great effect. I think we ought to get Dave to sing more often. There is a good voice there." Carole
  • "I really enjoyed the show, and learned a lot about Joe Strummer and his music. Well done everyone involved. However, I'm perterbed to find that a couple of days after watching the show, the tune that's still running through my mind is "Save your kisses for me"..." Andrew Rickinson
  • "Not a review, exactly, but just to say thank you to cast and crew ( especially the tireless sound op) for a hugely involving and enjoyable perf last night. I had had a few slight worries that this may be a step too far outside the comfort zone ( The Clash! High decibel levels! etc).But no - I found I really loved it all, as the script was great and both actors really on top of their game." Despinetta
  • "I LOVED it! As did the non-SLT friends I had with me last night who were gushing with praise, particularly with regard to the clever minimalist staging, characterisation by the actors and slick 'scene' changes. Carry on ignoring alien orders, Nick and Steve!" Fents
  • "Clearly the events therein were mostly all before my "time", but I LOVED this show. Great production values, great script, great performances. Well done!" Smamf
  • "We loved it too! As did the rest of the audience last night. Fabulous play, dynamic, passionate and funny acting AND GREAT MUSIC! Thank you very much Mark, Dave and Phil for a brilliant evening. Enjoy the rest of the run." Jenny Mac (and Jake, who practically sprinted down to SLT to watch this production).

Gallery

Reminiscences and Anecdotes

  • Music plays a strong part in this play, so much so that it had two sound designers, one for the equipment aspect and another for the sound. Whilst the system was the most complex and powerful ever used in a Prompt Corner show (using professional speakers loaned by a local company) it was designed it such a way as it was all but invisible to the audience .
  • Unusually the lighting design was completely integrated and controlled by the sound system.
  • From Dave (aka the character 'Steve'): Well this show 'totally done me taters' (as the play says). During rehearsals I had a facebook contact from an old friend I'd not seen for about 20 years. In the play my character has his records broken, mine got stolen, he has hassle with someone called 'Sleaze', I had hassle with someone called 'Doss.' The character looked up to and was totally influenced by a close friend because he saw him as cool - my personal journey into and through punk was through the same route. There are other similarities that are all a bit too weird and I work in the same field as the character ended up working in. All in all there are times when being in this play has felt a bit surreal. I'm writing this before the show goes up. It'd be great to hear from folk after seeing it to see what they make of it all.
  • The characters' language is quite fruity; so much so that the actors decided it would be much less obtrusive to use a particular combination of swearwords (which is not used anywhere else in the play) rather than saying "line" if they ever needed a prompt. The swearing is not as everpresent as in Gagarin Way, but there is a fair bit of it. Rehearsals at Alleyn's School were frequently paused as a member of the school staff came into the rehearsal room, or toned down in volume when we realised that the boys practising cricket in the sports hall next door could probably hear it all. Hope we can still go back there...
  • On page 61 the script contains the memorable stage direction "Nick and Steve snort more cocaine. They are both pretty fucked now".

See Also

Have there been other SLT productions of this play? Link to them here.

Or add anything that is related within this site. The author's page for instance or other plays with a similar theme.

What are the red arrows on the poster all about?

The poster is based on a stencil painting (or pochoir as they are called in France) by spraycan artist Jef Aérosol, who very kindly allowed us to use it without payment. Jef's pochoirs (which are easily recognised by his signature red arrows) can be seen on walls, doors and other spaces in cities around the world, on his Flickr site or in his book.

External Links

  • The original production by Middle Ground Theatre
  • The Future Is Unwritten, Paul Hodson's new theatre company, touring the play again in 2010
  • Strummerville, the charity set up by the friends and family of Joe Strummer in the year after his death. The charity seeks to reflect Joe's unique contribution to the music world by offering support, resources and performance opportunities to artists who would not normally have access to them.
  • Obituary in The Independent by Chris Salewicz, later author of the biography Redemption Song
  • Article about the SLT production at yourlocalguardian.co.uk (local press website)