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POSTED: 18 SEPTEMBER 2010

tHe dYsFUnCKshOnalZ!, by Mike Packer | Directed by Michael Pigott

Arts Radar & Darlinghurst Theatre Company | Darlinghurst Theatre, Potts Point | Until 3 October

A wealthy American Corporation hears the chorus of the song Plastic People and decides prematurely that they want to use it in their advertising campaign to launch a new multi-purpose credit card. They offer The Dysfunckshonalz  a small fortune for the song rights and a gig in New York to launch the campaign.

As their name suggests the band are dysfunctional. Their rock ’n’ roll existence was brief and appalling, due in no small part to the group’s incessant internal bickering.

There is no love lost between guitarist Marc Faeces (Michael Long) and lead singer Billy Abortion (Graeme Rhodes), who Marc had stabbed and left bleeding in a hotel room on their final chemically fuelled tour of Scandinavia.

Billy is an anti-American anarchist reliant on anti-depressants and stacking supermarket shelves to survive, but is eventually persuaded to join the reunion and flaunt its mercantile ambition.

But the show-business promotional opportunity turns into an expletive-filled assault that scandalises New York and turns them into a legend when they arrive back in the UK.

Rhodes doesn’t hold back as the eternally resentful, cantankerous and bitter Billy. He glares and snarls his accusations and negations with defiance and sarcasm. Vocally he establishes and sustains his stage persona with exact discordant chords and dances in authentic, angular poses whilst baiting the audience.

Long is also well exhumed as the middle-aged middle man, playing  guitar like a machete-wielding mercenary.  It is Long who makes the musical number so credible and adds vigour and validity to the evening.

Emily Weare is less convincing as Louise Gash, the bass player. but it is a difficult role — the romantic interest mutilated by a mastectomy.

James Lugton gives a laid-back, understated but superb performance as the memory-challenged drummer. His sense of rhythm extends beyond the musical into the theatrical. His performance is the funniest and most humane.

Michael Pigott’s direction is focused and informed in its send-up of America’s commercialisation and consumption of a counter culture — to its detriment.

The staging is suitably utilitarian and befits the play’s episodic and gritty nature, with clunky collages used to transition across the Atlantic from London to New York.

The dialogue is biting, witty and heroic, but a warning, you baby boomers, it is punk and crude — where passion outweighs technique. So hey ho — you should go!

All images: Patrick Boland.