The black box theatre of BATS’ Random Stage is transformed into the grunge garage band rehearsal space of my teenage dreams. Fluorescent pops of colour, posters of Patti Smith and David Bowie erratically plaster the walls. The punk scene is complete with fairy lights, discarded energy drink cans, Grandma’s couch and a graffitied Officemax calendar. Tony Black’s slick lighting design with dramatic spotlights and ultraviolet effects transports the audience from rehearsal to riot. The band members procrastinate rehearsal as the audience enters.
Peachy Keen, Sour Grapes and Lemon Lime & Bitters make up The Rotten Cores. The members are like the Powerpuff Girls. They may not be made of sugar, spice and all things nice, but they are colour coordinated and their fruit punch is definitely spiked with some Chemical X. These colourful characters compliment each other’s bold fruity flavours.
Our (not so) Peachy is a raging Sagittarius punk played by head writer Rosie Howells. Peachy’s punk starter kit includes ripped jeans, slept in makeup and not giving a FUCK! She’s too punk rock to remember to bring a kit, let alone remember her guitar chords. She’s an aggressive punk purist. Howells played Peachy with such sincerity that I am now a little scared of her.
Lemon, the “Monica” of the band, likes to run a tight ship. Harriet Hughes dresses her character in an awesome mod, lime print ensemble with teased green hair. Classically trained, Lemon clashes with Peach over schedules, lyrics and the definition of punk. What’s more punk than breaking the conventions of punk?
In a pleather jacket and holey purple fishnet stockings, Alyane Dick takes on the role of Sour Grapes. In the vein of Aubrey Plaza, the badass drummer is a deadpan, sarcastic enigma. She’s a mystery even to her bandmates.
Courtney Barnett vibes book end the show with the band’s rocking song, ‘Eleganza.’ Unconventional instruments cameo in songs celebrating friendship and a Kiwi woman icon. The Rotten Core’s songs are relatable and angsty. ‘Sick Day’ articulates the dilemma of not taking sick days because you feel bad about inconveniencing your workmates.
Maybe it’s because I’m not very punk, but the shouty singing style and sound set up does make the lyrics hard to hear and some jokes hard to land. Luckily programmes (in colour!) are available with the bands set list and lyrics.
If the Rotten Cores were to reunite for another season, I’d be eager to know what they are rehearsing for. The play elements of the show lack narrative stakes. I want to know what this particular gig meant to the band. Is it a competition? Who will they be performing to? It would give me more reason to emotionally invest in this little grunge band’s journey.
The core of the show is not rotten at all: it’s really about female friendship, a genre I can really get behind. It is immensely satisfying when the band encourages each other to stand in their truth, despite their differences. They give each other what they’re all craving, a sense of belonging in their fucked up fruit salad of a band.
Head to BATS Theatre this week if live pearformance and phat beets sound like your jam. You will also encounter better fruit puns, mine are berry bad. Orange you glad this review is over? Discharge is Rotten to the Core shows at 8pm and runs until 6th of October. You can visit the BATS website for further details and ticketing information.