American Idiot

Theatre Royal, Brighton

April 16 - April 20

GREEN Day are one of the most popular punk bands around, and have been for more than 30 years. Their smash album American Idiot proved so huge that a musical has been touring based on its amazing 13-song track list. The show is coming to Brighton and The Argus spoke to stars, and former X Factor contestants Sam Lavery – who plays Whatshername – and Luke Friend – who takes up the role of St Jimmy – about the rock opera.

What attracted you to the show?

Sam: Theatre is something I’ve always been interested in, but I’ve concentrated on music since X Factor.

When I heard about the show, I thought this role would be a perfect fit, especially as my first role.

I jumped in with two feet and I’ve learned so much from it because it’s a completely different kettle of fish from what I’ve done before.

What’s the show about?

Luke: The show is based on a Green Day album and follows three friends trying to find escape from their suburban lives.

The story is harrowing.

It’s about people struggling because they don’t know their place in a world controlled by people who are power hungry.

It asks “how would you get through the struggles of being down and not recognising your place? How do you get out of the rut you’re in?”.

It’s an amazing experience to be able to do some really serious theatre.

It doesn’t shy away from tough subjects, does it?

Luke: No, it is tough. In real life, some of us have never felt the hardship we go through on the stage, but you get immersed in it so much while you’re on stage and your character takes over.

It’s very emotional.

I’ve had times when I’ve been a bit tearful.

Sam: It’s completely different to anything I’ve ever seen before.

I think what’s important is we’ve all worked together to research and look at the intention of every single line of every single song.

We aren’t just singing or acting on a whim, we’ve really researched the facts of it.

We want it to be as truthful as possible.

Tell us about your characters.

Sam: Whatshername has got so many layers.

She’s a powerful female in a situation that everyone’s been through where a partner is not putting her first and deciding “do I choose you or something else?”.

This show is a rollercoaster of emotions and it gives me a chance to explore the different sides of her personality.

Luke: St Jimmy is a drug dealer.

He’s a skitty maniac. Crazy. He’s got a lot of attitude. He’s a very complex character and I love playing him, trying to taunt people, taking control of the stage and taking over everything is great fun.

Has anything surprised you about the show?

Sam: I was surprised by how emotional it is.

When I do gigs, I get emotional with songs, but this is different.

Even when we’re in the wings, some of us will start crying because you get drawn in by it.

In the show, I sing Letterbomb.

That song’s full of rage. I come off stage after that and I am absolutely raging. I’m angry.

The emotion stays with me.

This is the tenth anniversary tour of the show. Why do you think it is still popular a decade after it premiered?

Luke: The score is incredible and the music is so nostalgic for a lot of people.

When Green Day were writing American Idiot, they were all going through a mad time.

They were super angry with the world.

Not much has changed.

There’s still a lot of very awful people out there, so it still resonates with the world today.

Were you a fan of the album?

Luke: I was the dude with the black emo hair and painted fingernails.

I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that I loved that album when it came out.

It’s the thing that got me to pick up a guitar and start playing. I must have been about 12.

I didn’t even know how to tune a guitar then. The first song I attempted was When September Ends.

I’d been playing for about three hours and my fingers had blistered, but I’d gone through that and carried on because I was determined to get it right.

That first day was pretty disastrous, but I stuck at it.

I actually performed that song for the audition as well.

What do you think makes live performance so exciting?

Sam: I think the general energy in the room, the atmosphere from beginning to end.

With American Idiot, you go from a full-out, big-energy rock song to it being deadly silent and watching someone in a state of mind in which they have no idea where they want to go with their lives.

It’s so intense. I don’t think you can get that from watching a film, not to that level.

Luke: It’s real and authentic.

It’s never quite the same every time you watch it.

People may react differently; people may feel a different way in the moment.

On television, you can rewind it and watch it again and it’s going to be exactly the same.

Theatre is there, it’s live. It’s like a concert.

What can audiences expect from a trip to see American Idiot?

Sam: So much energy and so many emotions.

It’s a really intense show.

You’ll come away from it and feel you’ve experienced every part of the story yourself.

Luke: Passion. Everyone in this cast is amazingly passionate.

And you won’t be able to stop jiggling your feet if you’re in the audience either.

It’s going to be incredible.