A warm, funny kind of Madness

Our House – it must be love

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

****

THIS musical has it all and generous dollops at that. The songs are Madness favourites including Wings of a Dove, House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Our House and more.

It is exuberant, busy, lively and basically FUN! Add dancing, amazing musicianship that Madness would salute, a versatile set, a company full of life and energy, and even then I'm not doing it justice.

Madness as a band were at their height in the late 70s and 80s with hit after hit influenced by a range of styles including Ska, punk but with wonderful lyrics that lend themselves to a musical interpretation. Their warm ‘norf lunnon' glottal stops permeate the action.

The story revolves around 16-year-old Joe Casey (Alexis Gerred), born at ‘our house' 25 Casey Street, to mum Kath (Rebecca Bainbridge) and absent father. On the cusp of manhood, the choices he makes on that night seal his fate for the rest of his life.

Like ‘Sliding Doors', the choices are played out with on-stage guidance from narrator dad (Sean Needham).

The costume changes alone are in the Guinness Book of Records! Joe's ‘white' choices, the right choices, lead down a gloomy, dark path which looks initially as though his ‘right' choices were the wrong choices for him. His ‘easy street', black as night choices, gain him a fancy motor, penthouse flat but even at the start lose him his girl, Sarah (Daniella Bowen), his friends Lewis (Alex Spinney) and Emmo (James Haggie) and ultimately his home and family – ironically he wasn't quite bad enough to save them. 

My favourite scene was with ‘good' Joe spoiling his Sarah on her birthday to the taunts of the OMG brigade Billie (Natasha Lewis) and Angie (Dominique Planter). He has £80 from his ‘marketing' job and buys a clapped-out Morris Minor in hand-painted scarlet. What a car! But, predictably, it's a lemon. But it's always great to see a car on stage. Also it's always great to see musicians on stage – and everyone in the company seemed to be able to play trumpet or saxophone – very impressive.

Written by Tim Firth (Calendar Girls) and Madness, and directed by Peter owe, all in all, this is a great show – great family fun with so much to recommend it. On the first night, the audience were up and dancing and there were a few mad Madness outfits to be seen. Great stuff indeed. To 02-11-13

Jane Howard

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