Written and directed by Paul Hodson and performed by Steve North and Jason Pit, Meeting Joe Strummer is an award winning punk play packed full of loud music, comedy and deep respect for the music and life of the The Clash’s legendary frontman.
The play is not just a tribute to The Clash or Strummer; it’s also a heartfelt play about friendship. Meeting Joe Strummer charts the friendship of two fans over three decades. Meeting as teenagers in the late 1970s, at an anti-Nazi league concert in Victoria Park, the play follows their lives as they cope with the Thatcher years and uninspiring music from the 1980s. It also looks at their struggle to stay true to their ‘cause’, while paying the bills and maintaining relationships, and how they grew up in the real world.
After Strummer’s tragic early death just before Christmas 2002, the show’s writer and director Hodson and actor North began talking about making a piece of theatre to celebrate his life.
They thought a biopic type of show seemed wrong; but a piece that told of Strummer’s spirit, passion, talent and humour through the eyes of some of his fans seemed right. During two years of research those close to Strummer as well as admirers from afar gave their time to talk about their feelings for him. His official biographer Chris Salewicz said not a day went by without people approaching Strummer to tell him he changed their lives.
Speaking about his own feelings for Strummer, whose real name was John Graham Mellor, actor North said: “I first saw the The Clash when I was 15 in June 1980 at Bristol Colston Hall. I met Joe Strummer and Mick Jones after the gig and asked Joe if he would do an interview for my fanzine ‘What the Rich are Doing’. Joe said he would, but the fanzine died after one issue so we never did the interview.
“I met him once again after a Mescaleros gig in Brighton in November 2001, the year before he died. Too drunk to explain how he had been my inspiration for most of the last 22 years, I garbled ‘you changed my life’ at him interrupting an interview with a young fanzine writer. Joe looked up, smiled and went back to the interview. I staggered home.”
Meeting Joe Strummer, which won a Fringe First in Edinburgh in 2006, appears at the Unity Theatre on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 March.