Whatever Happened to the Jaggy Nettles?

Scottish Youth Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Ever been stung by a Jaggy Nettle? No? Then it’s probably time for part time punks of all ages to put on their leather jackets, spike up their hair and moonwalk their way down to see Martin Travers’ sharp as a safety pin new play for the Citizens Theatre’s newly formed WAC Ensemble. The WAC stands for We Are Citizens, and over the seventy minutes or so of Guy Hollands’ raucous production, the young performers who make up Scotland’s greatest contenders prove themselves more than worthy of such a proclamation.

Its 1978, and like everyone their age, The Jaggy Nettles are making a racket. There’s Robin ‘Bonnie Ann’ Clyde on guitar, Mark ‘Kunti’ Conti on bass, Timothy ‘Timpani’ Abercrombie The Third on drums, plus Tammy ‘Baby’ Walker and manager Lori Logan on assorted shouting. Oh, and there’s wannabe superstar Kathleen ‘P.K.’ Kelly on lead vocals. The band’s fanzine freebie flexi-disc might have just been played by John Peel, but acrimony and ambition are about to get the better of them. Especially when record company spiv Jonny Silver wants a piece of the action.

There’s a glorious cartoon dynamism to all this that shows just how close to Greek tragedy such rock follies are. Like the punks they’re playing, however, the show’s new wave of raw talent shouldn’t care too much about any of that old-time stuff. As played out on Neil Haynes’ wilfully scuzzy set and with music by Michael John McCarthy, for all the teenage kicks, there are more serious things afoot. With help from Martin Docherty and Helen McAlpine, this is what one might expect from a group formed by performers with a shared experience of the care system.

But none of that matters here. Genna Allan, Rosie Graham, Shannon Lynch, Cameron Macleod, Andrew Marley, Kieran McKenzie, Allan Othieno and Chloe Wyper capture the heart and soul spirit of friendship, fights and fleeting moments of unity that helped define a generation’s rites of passage. Year zero starts here.