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Sid (National Tour): Review

sid I am an anti-Christ. I am an anarchist. Dario Coates as Craig in 'Sid'. Photograph: Courtesy of Ashley Carter and Darren Elson.

Sid is a cataclysmic experience. An unquenchable and unforgettable fury that teeters on an exquisite knife edge of reason.

Craig loves punk music. In fact, that’s an understatement. His very being is punk, and he hero worships Sid Vicious to the point that he believes his spirit is with him. But when Craig starts to face real life, can the spirit of anarchy keep him falling apart at the seams?

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I am an anti-Christ. I am an anarchist. Dario Coates as Craig in ‘Sid’. Photograph: Courtesy of Ashley Carter and Darren Elson.

Writing

It’s difficult to know where to start with Leon Flemming’s Sid: not because it’s obtuse or overly complicated, but because it’s hard to pick a starting point for building a criticism of a play this intense. Having missed Sid the first time round, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about. Needless to say, Sid rocked my socks off.

As the very beginning is apparently a very good place to start, I’ll begin there. Sid starts as an irreverent look back at the essence of punk and one man’s obsession with a genre that, in their opinion, refuses to die. It’s playful, dynamic, and fun, and seems full of grit but seems ultimately innocuous. But, as Craig’s predicament about how he’s being forced to grow up and face facts, sparked by his girlfriend having left for university, Sid starts to show how obsession can go far beyond mere fantastic fascination, turning into an intense and dangerous play.

What’s best about Sid is that it feels so fluid an organic by way of dropping you into the fast-moving current of Craig’s stream of consciousness: there’s no clunky exposition or grand back-story. Though you’re plonked in the thick of Craig’s unravelling world, Flemming’s pacing and unfurling of the narrative that means you’re never overwhelmed, and a devastating picture slowly starts to emerge. It’s interesting, because rather than just going “Craig’s bonkers, isn’t this fucked-up!” Flemming gently feeds you with aan exploration of what has fuelled Craig’s fandango on the precipice of sanity that’s brutally human. At only 45 minutes long, it’s one that doesn’t linger or over analyses itself, either. Everything is brief, to the point so we never stray away from Craig as a character, meaning he never becomes a device. We start to understand why the ghost of Sid Viscous is Craig’s source of comfort, how class-struggle feeds into Craig’s alienation, and the complexities between hate, love, and dependency. Not to mention there’s clever little contradictions and hypocrisies in Craig as a character that really flesh out and vitalise him as an alive and kicking character.

The full-pelt of Sid though is in the monster of a character that Flemming has created. Craig is a charming character who invites you grinningly into his fast-decaying world, and because of this, you accept his hospitality only to find yourself hooked with little view of escape. This is certainly is helped in spades by Dario Coates’ career-defining performance, but at its essence is a larger-than-life but completely believable and charismatic mad-man that you can’t help but be beguiled by. Even when the shit hits the fan, nothing ever feels forced or so quickly escalated that Sid feels like a melodrama. The result is that, from a certain point onwards, the hairs start to stand on the back of your neck and you unexpectedly find yourself in fight or flight mode, perched on exquisite tenterhooks. Sid is certainly up there as one of the most astounding pieces of solo theatre of recent years, on par with legendary shows like; Iphigenia in Splott; People, Place, Things; and The State vs John Hayes.

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Fools to the left of me. Dario Coates as Craig in ‘Sid’. I am an anti-Christ. I am an anarchist. Dario Coates as Craig in ‘Sid’. Photograph: Courtesy of Ashley Carter and Darren Elson.

Direction & Production

Scott Le Crass’ direction and production of Sid is one that knows exactly what to do to make it tremor with intensity, but more importantly knows what not to do. There’s are moments where music is employed to help keep the flow going and add tweaks of pace, and slight pushes here and there, especially the unrelenting and unforgiving harassment of the audience, that rocket-fuel Sid’s energy. But at the same time, Le Crass leaves Coates’ to completely saturate himself with Flemming’s text and character and allows plenty of reign to play and respond to the each individual performance to ensure it’s always sincere, believable, and spontaneous. In a perfect example of great solo theatre directing and performance, the entire team behind Sid sets a paradigm and an octane for which they want to work within, but allows it to be tempered by both performer and audience. Le Crass has developed a rock-solid foundation from their vision of Flemming’s text to which build a mighty show upon, and because of this, Sid is played to monumental heights.

Performance

Despite Coates being of quite slight and unassuming frame, he’s a beastly theatrical monster. There’s an intensity of rage that seethes through every nanosecond of Coates’ performance. Even when Craig is not flying off the handle and appears fairly placid, there’s always an undulating fury that twitches beneath the skin. Coates also responds excellently to the audience and is not at all phased by them, constantly reacting to anything thrown at him in full character and imagination, effortlessly reeling them in and using his charm to box them in with no escape. The result is a performance that terrifies you but simultaneously breaks your heart, as Coates’ portrays Craig as a deeply battered and tragic person of internalised conflict. This is one of the most intoxicating and brutal performances you’ll ever see, for which Coates leaves you masterfully bruised.

Verdict

An anger and bedlam that not even the Sex Pistols could match, Sid is theatrical grunge at lethal levels of concentration.

Sid was reviewed during its run at Etcetera Theatre, London, NW1 7BU, 3-8 May 2016. For tour dates and tickets, visit www.facebook.com/SidThePlay.

Sid will transfer to the Arts Theatre, London, WC2H 7JB, from 19 September – 8 October 2016. Tickets prices and booking to be announced. For more information, visit artstheatrewestend.co.uk.