Pollock isn't embarrassed to be caught pining for the hedonistic idealism of punk, or to underline its importance in defining today's fashions and attitudes, but he also manages to capture its inchoate nature very succinctly. He understands that punk was never going to look much cop the morning after. It was a blast, a spurt, as brief and crude and kinetic as any of the two-minute singles it spawned, but a real Frankenstein's monster at heart: a quick graceless rampage around the country deflowering sons and daughters, and then it was chopped up and the parts used for something else - New Wave, Grunge, whatever.
When you spread that kind of spontaneity on the slab and start dissecting it, the results can look clinical or contrived (hence Pollock's argument that, in some ways, TV helped to both create and destroy punk). But What Do I Get? is neither. It employs the life-after-punk scenario as a metaphor for examining how we all find room in our lives to accommodate our insecurities and compromises - how we converse with the people we once were. The play is a requiem for punk, but also for youth, and for dreams. Its characters have stopped chanting "no future" and started thinking about pension plans. As The Speedometers' drummer Gordana (Kate Gartside) says when she's faced with being the end of the family line: "If I don't have kids, it'll be like I never existed." A sub-culture characterised by its nihilism must suddenly confront the fact that life goes on.
If this sounds overbearingly sombre, then that's because it could be in the wrong hands. But Jake Lushington teases the absurdities out of the characters, encouraging their self-deprecation. Martin Marquez in particular proves himself to be a master of comic timing as the Richard Jobson-esque Mowbray, investing every dry pause or arch of the eyebrow with the sting of a sharp one-liner. Kate Gartside and Rob Jarvis (as the Jigsaw's missing piece, guitarist Billy Whizz, now trading under his real name - Keith) are also excellent as the cohorts betrayed by Mowbray but facing an altogether brighter future.
Best of all, the production is lent a chilly, embalmed feel by Julia Smith's sparse design: tiled abbatoir walls lit swamp green, and a trio of meat-hooks that echo the menacing accoutrements of punk - accessories before accessorising had a name.
To 22 Feb. Booking: 0171-837 7816
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