Sid & Nancy in the theater: the hipster version of punk

Sid & Nancy in the theater: the hipster version of punk

In a Chelsea Hotel room filled with beer bottles, speakers and guitars, Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen sit on a worn-out couch, ready to be interviewed and filmed. Well, ‘ready’ is a big word – as Spungen tries to keep the conversation going, Matata sits beside him, wearing sunglasses, almost shockingly, in a drug-induced stupor. The interviewer’s important question (“Is your statement political or artistic?”) ends up in a gap of laughter and inappropriate statements.

Theater director Mateusz Staniak, who graduated from the Directing program in Amsterdam in 2020, creates Hamlet and Ophelia a story from reality, or as he calls it: “A true story that never happened.” On October 12, 1978, Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend and manager of legendary punk musician Sid Vicious, was found murdered in their shared room at New York’s Chelsea Hotel. Staniak creates the situation and events of the murder together: in his performance, Vicious and Spungen play the leading roles in the trials. Hamletfilm adaptation. And a text from him written in 1977 Hamlet’s Machine and Heiner Müller, Staniak tries to give his protagonists a tragic dimension.

Arne Luiting like punk legend Sid Vicious.
Sanne Pepper’s photo

There is no deeper understanding

The problem, however, is that the director fails to see beyond the surface of addiction and the presence of punk. In endless scenes, it gives actors Laura de Geest and Arne Luiting much more to do than play drug addicts – which they do well, but which don’t provide a deep insight into their characters. Pepijn Korfage is allowed to portray an evil and manipulative manager as Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren, while Robin Zaza Launspach’s role as Spungen’s girlfriend is too big.

When record for Hamletthe adaptation of the film, which is shown directly on the fixed wall, begins and we see Spungen and Vicious reciting Müller’s complex text, the contrast between the intelligence of the German author and the complete emptiness of the lost love couple immediately makes you laugh.

But Staniak clearly didn’t think satirical, given his black-light design and George Dhauw’s haunting scenery. The great tone and the great void clash violently with each other; it is unclear what attracts Staniak to his characters.

After the show, guests of the premiere were not given champagne, but a can of ‘Punk IPA’. It’s a perfect metaphor for him Hamlet and Ophelia: it’s a hipster version of punk, in which the rawness of the movement has been sacrificed on the altar of artistic pretension.