The stage was set for rock and roll. Three banners bearing images of Strummer were all that adorned the stage. Can I get a message through? Yeah, I’d just like to say: can we have some music now . . .
Two forty-somethings hit the stage to the sound of ‘White Riot’, a-hollering them lyrics, a-thrashing them imaginary guitars, and aping that Strummer knee jerk reaction to a tee! Written in the aftermath of the great man’s untimely demise, ‘Meeting Joe Strummer’ traces the lives of the play’s only two characters, working-class Steve & middle-class Nick (‘Johnny-too-bad meets Johnny-be-good in the Charring Cross Road?’). The pair meet on an anti-Nazi march where Nick is attempting to expunge his middle class guilt, and Steve is drinking brew for breakfast. Nick soon plays Disco Steve ‘White Riot’, and rest is their story.
Fast forward 30-odd years, and the pair are in the audience for the Mescaleros’ historic Fireman’s benefit at Acton Town Hall (Note to all: THE CLASH NEVER REFORMED), reminiscing about The Clash’s iconic appearance at the RAR Carnival on 30th April, 1978, in Victoria Park, East London. As details of their lives emerge, it is apparent that neither has succeeded in capturing those rock and roll dreams of yesteryear, and, in their own way, they have both had to come to terms with ‘working for the man’ the way they said they’d never do when they were kids! It’s true, we all know it, intrinsically . . . maybe we all used to look at sad 40-something teds, and think: ‘I hope I don’t turn out that way when my time comes around’, and return to the mirror to spike up our hair! I know I do.
The passage of time is told through the history of The Clash, and the incidental lives of our protagonists. The music comes thick and fast, and stirs up the emotions with righteous fervour. Pithy, witty, warm and evocative, when Joe wrote ‘If Music Could Talk’, he probably never imagined it answering him back! For anyone who lived The Clash back in the day, this is a production to warm the cockles of your heart. Amphetamine-fuelled (metaphorical, obviously) performances from Steve North and Jason Pitt bring Hodson’s heartfelt words to life, and trigger the realisation that you are watching a parallel with your own formative years. For anyone who wasn’t there, you have some catching up to do! No other group in the history of rock and roll changed lives forever the way The Clash did. Last gang in town, still standing! IGNORE ALIEN ORDERS . . . THE FUTURE IS STILL UNWRITTEN.
Jean Encoule – www.midkiss.com - 09/03/10