This play takes us into the world of Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, a few months after the demise of the Sex Pistols. The text is really a debate between Pistols’ vocalist Johnny Rotten, manager Malcolm McLaren, and Sid and Nancy, essentially for control of Sid’s life.
Sid Vicious was named by the young Rotten after his own pet hamster named Sid. The human Sid had been John Beverley and before that Simon Ritchie, a reflection of a sad early life of disappearing father and step-father – as writer Jon Savage has put it, a boy with no past. That he then took up a further identity as a Sex Pistol after the surprise sacking of original bassist and songwriter Glen Matlock is a key to the confusion.
“I tried to out-rotten Rotten,” he says at one point in this play – a key line. The lad was an amateur, wondering what role he should play next. “When I was in the audience I could be me, when I joined the band I had to be a Pistol.”
In this play, we have a cast of four working hard in very physical theatre. There are scuffles, knives, syringes, people falling about all over the place. The debate over the direction of the Sex Pistols, Britain in the ’70s, Sid and life in general is interesting throughout. Sid, Nancy and John are all recognisable and convincing – Malcolm slightly less so.
The soundtrack brings back Iggy Pop, Blondie (Deborah Harry was a friend of Spungen’s), The Adverts and many other bands from both sides of the Atlantic, including the Pistols, of course; there’s a bit of reggae in there, too.
Vicious Circles is at times blackly humorous, finishing with a hilarious punk curtain call – the audience has no doubt in which direction the door is after that.
I enjoyed every minute of this.
Vicious Circles, presented by Weeping Spoon Stadium Tour, is at Tuxedo Cat @ The Wine Underground until March 16.
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