There’s a lot of it about at the moment. Popular music, that is, draped somewhat disjointedly – not to say discordantly – around a disconnected story. Take Reasons To be Cheerful by Paul Sirett with the music (mainly) of Ian Dury. This collaboration between Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre and Graeae was first staged in autumn 2010 and is now back with basically the same cast for a new tour.
Gaelle Mellis’ designs for Jenny Sealey’s production litter the stage with 1970s paraphernalia and adds in video, animation and surtitles to provide the words of the different numbers and mirror the dialogue (this doesn’t always synchronise perfectly). Graeae properly prides itself on playing to an inclusive audience using performers of whom some have a range of physical disabilities.
It’s all extremely noisy and, for non-Dury aficionados in the audience, musically dull – nor to say repetitive. Though the actual story which is at the heart of Reasons To be Cheerful is ultimately a moving one. A formerly strong bread-winner now reliant on his wife, a wheel-chair and increasing doses of medication; that wife and mother at the end of her several tethers; the son torn between a nebulous future (if he earns a place at university) and a stultifying present; the girl who wants understanding and not just sympathy – these are all real people. They deserve a proper play.