A show that integrates the vibrant pulse of Madness with a poignant twisting tale

A show that integrates the vibrant pulse of Madness with a poignant twisting tale

Eileen Caiger Gray reviews Our House at Sheffield Lyceum, Aug 14th 2017

It’s bounce, energy and fun all the way in Our House. A show that integrates the vibrant pulse of Madness with a poignant, twisting tale that grips from start to finish is a show that can’t fail, even in a production less lavish and accomplished than some and with a 2013 revision that’s perhaps a little less compelling than the 2008 one.

As a four-piece band pounds out the offbeat ska rhythms in irresistible mixes and medleys of Baggy Trousers, Our House, House of Fun, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day and all the rest, cast members, stamina never flagging, embrace wholeheartedly Fabian Aloise’s imaginative whirlwind choreography. The big ensemble numbers in this Immersion Theatre and Damien Tracey Production are an exhilarating joy: at school desks, in Las Vegas, in prison or selling market wares in Oliver! style parody, the cast’s combined singing and fevered dancing (with occasional acrobatics from George Sampson as Reecey) slap broad smiles on faces.

After a slower start, the momentum of the page-turner tale of young Joe Casey, whose life splits into two unpredictable parallel versions, is beautifully maintained via a series of – literally – sliding doors (complete with brickwork). These morph one life into the other as they travel across the stage, carrying the audience through the emotional and moral ups and downs of joy, laughter and despair that the two different Joes (played by Jason Kajdi) experience and that each engenders in the lives of those around him. The split moment decisions, their short-term consequences, their long-term outcomes, all bring intriguing twists and complications, most especially in the romance of Joe and down-to-earth girlfriend Sarah (Sophie Matthew), a young lady who keeps audience sympathy throughout.

Etisyai Philip and Jessica Niles add plenty of sparkle as double act girls, Billie and Angie, while there’s warm humour from Billy Roberts and Will Haswell as Emmo and Lewis – in an Ant and Dec sort of way. Callum McArdle, as Joe’s dead father, sometimes lit in spectral tones, always in a leather jacket, has a divine singing voice that outshines all others, which, it must be said, are not quite so divine.

Still, since it opened in 2002, this has always been an enjoyable show, and there can’t be many (or any?) who don’t leave the theatre smiling, singing and performing their own spiky-legged cavortings along the pavement as they go One Step Beyond. Fine entertainment.

The show now tours until November to Llandudno, Weston-super-Mare, Skegness, Malvern, Swansea, Blackpool, Bridlington, Bromley, Portsmouth, Coventry and High Wycombe.