The age old fight between music for music’s sake, that benches for political standing and belief, pitted against the often inevitable sell-out is the central focus for this amicable, heartwarming tale, which uses The Clash front man as a mutinous symbol in Thatcher's Britain.
We follow the lives of two friends - middle-class wannabe rebel Nick (Huw Higginson) and fervent, working class grafter Steve (Steve North) who meet at '78’s Rock Against Racism gig.
We ricochet back and forth in time from 1976 when both first hear The Clash to 2002 and observe how the eponymous hero, worshipped by these two disaffected youths, affected their lives as they release their adolescent rage and struggle with the compromising reality of everyday life.
As we trace Nick’s success with a prominent acting role in EastEnders and Steve’s unsettled struggle through a ravaged economical age, they confront the displacement between the idealism that Strummer inspired and the complex realism of responsibility and “paying the man”.
Stylistically reminiscent of Nick Hornby, Paul Hudson’s script (interspersed with snippets of The Clash’s biggest songs) doesn’t get lost in mindless nostalgia but explores, with much humour and affection, how heroes like Joe Strummer affected all those average joe fans with his leftist, poster boy popularity. It's easy to relate to whether you’re a fan of The Clash or not, as everyone's had that moment when you hear a song that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
But the play isn’t just a semi-autobiographical tribute to a singer by devotees. It’s about friendship; allowing for a parallel between the two protagonists and the relationship between Strummer and Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Both pairs fall out and separate due to differences and both are reunited for one final show.
Higginson and North pair well together, easily maintaining energy and bartering well with the audience, set against their simplistic bare-staged setting, which only contains three posters, creating an appropriate unpretentious approach and delivery.
Spanning a quarter of a century and exploring political and personal history, Hudson avoids glibness and opts for self-deprecation which results in an engaging, enjoyable performance.
Meeting Joe Strummer plays at the Traverse Theatre, tomorrow at 8pm
©Lindsay Corr, November 2007