The audience for Patrick Jones' first play, Everything Must Go (produced in association with the Manic Street Preachers) looks younger and angrier than most. Lured by the thrill of watching the work of the first angry young Welshman, the voice of disaffected youth in the valleys, and hearing a soundtrack that incorporates the Manics, Catatonia, the Stereophonics and other Welsh luminaries, these theatregoers are up for a night of high octane action. Even I'm caught up in the pre-gig mood and beginning to believe that theatre is the new rock 'n' roll.
Jones is the brother of the Manic's bass player and lyricist Nicky Wire - a fact that could be overlooked if it weren't thrust in your face at every turn. And while the playwright may well be his own man, it is impossible to watch this without the Manics oozing out of every corner. They're a band prone to grandiose sloganeering and Jones is much the same, while the incorporation of Manic's lyrics (one character, Meilyr Sion's Curtis, spouts them non-stop) emphasises the pseudo-intellectual nature of the evening's proceedings. The Manics are also a band totally lacking in irony - a trait exhibited by Jones, whose original dialogue occasionally glimmers but more often reminds me of the crap I used to write on the reverse of exercise books. But the audience seems to love it because it's so, uh, real.
There's not much happening in 'the piss stained crack alleys and bus stops of Wales' so Curtis, Pip (Iestyn Llwyd), Cindy (Maria Pride) and Jim (Andrew Lennon) do drugs, joyride, cut their arms and occasionally OD. Another character (Russell Gomer) avenges his father's sacking from a components factory by shooting the man responsible, Worthington (Stephen Ley). Kids, eh? Director Phil Clark ensures that the performances are energetic.
While Jones has to be applauded for raising the profile of Welsh theatre and getting a new audience through the door, this is hardly the stuff that revolutions are made of. How many playwrights do we need telling us that life is crap, worthless and heading nowhere? That New Labour is the same as Old Tory? That sometimes all we've got are words? Who is Jones preaching to and who is he to preach in the first place?
There's a line in the play that announces that 'one day we're gonna find our voice.' Well maybe, but Jones is not that voice; he's just another middle-class elitist playwright who labours under the misapprehension that his finger is on the pulse. This is my truth, Patrick Jones, now tell me yours.