Our House, the musical written around the music of Madness by Tim Firth, first appeared 11 years ago in the West End. This new production by the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich bounces onto the stage with exuberant energy.
In North London it's Joe Casey's 16th birthday and he has a date with Sarah. In a bid to impress her, he breaks into a new property development, however it isn't long before they are discovered. Joe has a choice: does he run away from the law or face the consequences? We are guided through the stories of "good" and "bad" Joe by his late Dad in cleverly interwoven scenes. We see vividly how the choices Joe makes affect not only him but his family and friends.
One of the moving moments of the night is provided by Daniella Bowen (Sarah) her beautiful voice adding emotion to the song "NW5". Sean Needham is an ominous presence as Dad, lurking in the shadows adding haunting narration. On stage for most of the night, Alexis Gerred (Joe) has his work cut out, but still he gives an energetic performance.
The iconic music is played by the onstage band of three very ably, supplemented by many of the cast. There is clever use of the set to depict the many scenes while keeping the pace moving. Although projection is used to assist in the scene setting, this is sometimes partly obstructed by a high bridge portion of the set.
From the moment a saxophone playing priest steps onto the stage you know you are in for an enjoyable evening. This isn't a jukebox musical where the songs are scattered to add a musical interlude, here the songs add to the narrative of the story, driving the story on and providing some great performances. The action is as fast paced as some of the costume changes; in a show that holds the World Record for the amount of quick changes for an actor, kudos has to go to the dresser (Kiesha Banya-Burrows) for her part.
With so many Madness tunes, you are guaranteed a toe tapper of a show, but this also delivers a strong storyline and some excellent performances. This is a feel good show worth seeing; I think the audience on their feet dancing at the end would agree.
- Annette Nuttall