Tom Milner as Johnny in American Idiot
Tom Milner as Johnny in American Idiot

American Idiot and the sound of hysteria

Disenfranchisement is a common theme in the world today – with politics, with authority, and life in general.

This, then, makes the 10th anniversary tour of Green Day’s American Idiot musical particularly apt, as those themes are at its very heart.

For those who don’t know, Green Day are an American punk-pop and multi Grammy award-winning band, whose songs were turned into a musical in 2009. It went on to win a Tony Award.

It’s set in the days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, and features the lives of three young American men – and how they react in the aftermath of those tragic events.

Unlike many musicals, there are no obvious heroes or characters to latch on to and like. Think of Trainspotting, without Renton’s charm, Sick Boy’s humour or Spud’s daftness.

Tom Milner as Johnny in American Idiot

Tom Milner plays the gritty lead character, Johnny, who, failing as a musician, enters into a downward spiral and chooses a world of drugs. Milner plays him well, and has a fantastic rock voice, but the way in which the character is written makes it hard to warm to this edgy character. Milner is great – no denying that – and is a far cry from his TV days in Waterloo Road.

Tunny (Joshua Dowen) has a more tragic story – he chooses to join the military and ends up going to war and losing a leg. Another young actor with a fantastic voice.

Another friend, Will (played by Samuel Pope) is convinced to stay at home by girlfriend Heather, and becomes a father. He is a constant presence throughout, sitting in a raised area of the stage, watching as the others live their lives, whilst he stagnates.

Johnny is accompanied throughout by St Jimmy, played by a former X Factor contestant, Luke Friend, and he shows there’s far more to the nice lad who appear on our TV screens in 2013. He gets to play a horrible drug-abuser – and we later discover that he is just a figment of Johnny’s imagination, and is metaphorically killed when Johnny decides to give up his addiction.

But for me, the outstanding turn was 2016 X Factor finalist Sam Lavery as Whatsername. Her powerful vocals, as Johnny’s on-off friend with benefits, mark her out as a talent to watch.

American Idiot is at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow until Saturday

A word too about the band – acknowledged in a fourth-wall breaking moment when Johnny says he doesn’t expect to see a good group – they are superb. It’s not just all guitars and drums, either, as the violinist merges surprisingly well with the more traditional rock instruments.

It’s very much an adult show – there’s sex, drugs, rock and roll, relationships and finding purpose. If you’re a love of Green Day, and indeed, early noughties American rock, this will be right up your street. It’s angry, it’s powerful and it’s very entertaining.

There’s some blisteringly good tracks, from the Green Day catalogue, including the superb Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Wake Me Up When September Ends, Holiday and the blockbuster title track American Idiot.

American Idiot will be at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre until Saturday, 1 June, with performances on Thursday at 7.30pm, Friday at 5pm and 8.30pm; and on Saturday at 4pm and 7.30pm. Please note: American Idiot contains strong language and drug references – not suitable for under 14s.

Click HERE for ticket details.