The characters in Roy Smiles’ two-hander Kurt and Sid are Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious in a threnody of punk that fully compensates for any disappointment you might harbour over not seeing a play about an unlikelier pairing, say, of Kurt Weill and Sid James.
It’s certainly a far cry from Gertie and Noel, but Smiles finds a real groove for his fascination with these twin icons of punk: on the night of his suicide in a Seattle attic in 1994, the rifle wedged firmly in his mouth, Kurt is visited by the shadowy figure of the man he idolised.
Sid died of a heroin overdose in 1979, just before going on trial for having killed Nancy Spungen and soon after serving a gruelling prison term in Ryker’s after “bottling” the brother of Patti Smith.
Yet in Danny Dyer’s brilliantly observed performance, poised in a permanent leaning angle in his black leather jacket, sticky-up hair and semi-permanent sneer, he is transformed into an avuncular sage, almost, pleading with Kurt to keep going and write more music.
At first, Shaun Evans’ uncannily accurate blond Cobain thinks the intruder’s a trick of the imagination, or a punk impersonator. But the pair are soon locked in a sparky debate about the price of success, their respective instincts for hate and rage (in Sid’s case, this boils down to “the pettiness of being English”) and negative social responsibility.
Tim Stark’s otherwise fine production – played out on a design by Cordelia Chisholm cluttered with baby dolls, boxes, bric-a-brac and a tortured suicide note that Sid says is longer than Lord of the Rings – may miss a trick in not using much more of the music of both Nirvana and the Sex Pistols. There’s plenty of room for an imaginative expansion here.
But it’s an engaging duet, with a loony space walk to put all petty human endeavour in a wider context and a good spattering of one-liners to evoke what Sid calls Kurt’s collective howl for the dispossessed and his own posthumous philosophy, having got over God’s wicked sense of humour in inventing Swindon or, indeed, his own loathed suburb of Bromley.