Danny Dyer, Shaun Evans
“I know youre worn out, I know you feel raped, cheated, used but dont do it: from one fuck up to another dont do it. Find the answer, find the question: Live.”
Kurt Cobains body was discovered on the morning of April 8th, 1994 in a dirty attic above a garage in Washington State.
He had been missing for several days and after consuming a large pile of heroin had put a double-barrelled shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Although for years after his death many entertained conspiracy theories about whether it was really suicide, Cobain has now become consigned to the roll call of rock legends who have met an untimely end and left us wondering what might have been.
Among the theories surrounding his death was the suggestion that he wasnt alone the night before he died. Did someone try, and fail, to talk him out of it? It is this pondering that acts as the starting point for Roy Smiles brilliant two-man show about life, death and rock and roll.
Cobain was a lifelong fan of the rather terrifying Sid Vicious, who came to an even nastier end after, among other things, murdering his junkie girlfriend Nancy. Would Sid have been able to talk the suicidal grunge singer out of his death wish?
The production opens in Kurts attic, lovingly created with an eye for authentic detail by designer Cordelia Chisholm; complete with plastic dolls with gouged out eyes and scattered Sonic Youth records. Shaun Evans, as Kurt, is about to pull the trigger when a studded leather jacket clad, swastika t-shirt wearing Danny Dyer swaggers onto the scene. Sid isnt sure who or where he is, but concedes he could well be the ghost of Sid Vicious.
The play consists of a series of conversations where Sid prods, mocks and eventually pleads with Kurt to keep on living. The audience is never sure if he is simply a figment of Kurts drug addled-imagination and with his post 80s references to Scooby Do and Nirvana itself it seems this is the explanation Smile wants us to make. This theory is helped by the fact that Dyer plays the Sid Vicious we could expect to see if hed sold the rights to NBC, more eloquent, good looking and intelligent than he could have hoped to be: The only thing the real Sid passed at school was urine.
Shaun Evans is hypnotic as the whining and tortured Cobain and for me steals the show entirely, despite Dyer’s star quality. His laconic, softly spoken tones and nervous twitching evoke perfectly the Kurt of my memories.
Dyer does not disappoint as a swaggering, foul mouthed echo of Vicious, but manages to turn him from murderous junkie to a lovable and articulate rogue, as he tries to persuade Kurt to go on living rather than join the stupid club; such is the power of musical legend. “Yeah, imagine all those bastards thinking youre a genius and making you rich at the same time, some people have a fucking nerve.”
The third star of the piece is the writing. In this intimate space of the smaller of the Trafalgar Studios, a two-man show can all too easily feel exposed or slow but Smiles dialogue carries us along with him easily. Tightly woven, no word is wasted and the text is clever, hilarious and moving in parts. As you would expect from a self confessed Nirvana and Pistols fan, it is littered with one-liners and enough subtle references to keep music fans satisfied.
Roy Smiles play is less about Sid Vicious meeting Kurt Cobain, and more a letter to “the voice of a generation” from the very generation he turned his back on.