American Idiot/Malvern Theatres

THE problem is that having just returned from poverty-stricken Cuba where street beggars are so destitute that they hassle tourists for soap, I find it hard to feel a connection with First World pampered punk kids who feel hard done by.

We’ve all been teenagers. Only those of us in total denial can forget the raging hormones, parental conflicts and general confusion of those years.

But what exactly is the problem for Johnny, Tunny and Will? All right, clues are provided by the television screen news clips announcing the 2001 attack on the twin towers and George Bush’s subsequent declaration of war on – as it happened, duh – the wrong country.

But without it being spelled out to us, the whole thing would be a mystery. Even when our three punketeers have established their hate-everything credentials in a welter of expletives and painfully self-conscious vulgarity, you’re still hoping that the anger will take some constructive direction.

But no. An admirably competent grunge band may indeed drive the whole thing along, but what exactly is the message?

Johnny (Tom Milner) personifies the wannabe death-wish rock star lifestyle, shooting heroin, and general behaving like a doomed poet whose plane is about to run out of runway.

The trouble is that he’s seen nothing, done even less, and just harbours a predictable juvenile loathing for his home town. It’s just a pointless, unfocused hedonism that markedly avoids making any real point about warmonger politicians and grown-ups in general. He’s even stuck in a loveless relationship.

Nevertheless, the supremely talented Milner and the rest of the cast make the most of a threadbare script and dance routines that display the skill levels of a Butlins holiday camp tea dance for the over-60s.

The creation of rock band Green Day, this should have been a thought-provoking commentary of a time when America – and let us not forget, Britain too – embarked on an immoral piece of military adventurism, an act that continues to place us all in danger from terrorism to this day.

Quite why this admittedly fast-paced production cannot come up with anything better must therefore remain a mystery. The production is basically a loose story woven around some very good rock songs, rather than the reverse process, which is what it should be.

American Idiot runs at Malvern Theatres until Saturday (February 16).

John Phillpott