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The Theatreguide.London Review

tHe dYsFUnCKshOnalZ!
Bush Theatre Winter 2007

This is a cute little comedy about punk rockers.

That may seem a contradiction in terms, but playwright Mike Packer's tone is so mild and his comedy so unassuming that it delivers the same sort of mild chuckles as a Disney family film.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, just not what you might come in expecting.

The Dysfunckshonalz (I'm not going to attempt the typography again) were, we are told, a not-particularly-successful punk rock band who split up decades ago.

The leader stayed in music, redefining himself as a New Romantic or a Disco King every few years, equally unsuccessfully. The girl guitarist married a financial advisor, the drummer is terminally stoned and the lead singer is stocking shelves in a supermarket.

But out of nowhere a big American company wants to use one of their songs in a commercial, and not only will they get big bucks for that, but a reunion tour seems possible.

The singer is the one principled holdout for the anti-establishment principles they stood for, at least until he undergoes some sort of offstage epiphany between scenes and becomes an enthusiastic sell-out.

(In the most obvious of several plot inconsistencies, he's going to switch back and forth a few more times, always between scenes, so that at each new appearance we don't know where he stands or how and why he got there from where he was last time.)

And so we follow the middle-aged rockers as they inevitably sabotage their own comeback - or do they, since (in one of the play's best comic observations) the topsy-turvy world of celebrity can't - or doesn't bother to - distinguish between fame and infamy.

Rupert Procter does what he can to make a character out of the string of flip-flops that is the singer, his strongest moment coming when he delivers a two-page anti-American and anti-commercialism screed with so much comic energy that you almost don't notice how scatter-shot and cliché-filled it is.

Pearce Quigley is funny as the drummer so burned-out that every thought and word has to swim through the thick porridge of his brain on the way out, and Josephine Butler has a couple of good scenes as the American ad executive assigned to baby-sit the band.

What satire there is is generally de-clawed, the attempts at depth or characterisation (Need I tell you that one of the band is dying?) perfunctory.

Yet a sufficient number of the jokes score ('I was one of the first Brit punks into smack' - 'How proud you must be') to make for a pleasant enough evening - much like an easy-listening cover of a Sid Vicious song.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The Dysfunkshonalz - Bush Theatre 2007


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