Taking an Olivier Award winning musical on tour is not an easy prospect but the fierce energy and exceptional production values of Our House mean that there is no loss of impact just because we are on the south coast.
Any musical based on blockbuster singles – or even albums – has to be more than just an excuse for an evening in the theatre and Tim Firth brings together a number of familiar elements for his narrative. The key figure is Dad – splendidly sung by Callum McArdle – a ghostly figure with overtones of Carousel and even Hamlet. This is wedded to a plot mechanism out of Sliding Doors where we see his son Joe take parallel lives; Good Joe trying to overcome a brief time in Youth Custody, while Bad Joe goes along with the life of crime. If the mechanism is often over-simplistic, the music more than makes up for this, and gives us the emotional envelope the characters often lack.
The big numbers are wonderfully slick and the choreography filled with amazing energy. Baggy Trousers set in a school on the verge of a riot, Driving in my car, Tomorrow’s just another day, Wings of a Dove and the eponymous Our House, carry us through with the whole cast involved at all times. The number of costume changes, to say nothing of the ever-evolving set, implies a logistical experience back stage which has to have absolutely secure timing with everyone knowing to the second where they should be. Given the tiny amount of space back-stage at the White Rock this was a minor miracle in itself.
If the first half is something of an onslaught, the second has more reflective moments with It must be love allowing Sophie Matthew’s Sarah and Jason Kajdi’s Joe a moment of intimacy often lacking across the rest of the evening. Of the strong cast, George Sampson is an impressive Reecey and Deena Payne the emotional heart of Casey Street as Kath, the long suffering mother.
The small band – guitar, wind, drums and keyboard – make a strongly focussed sound even if the shed could not quite balance out the weight of the percussion!
The show runs until the weekend – worth catching. By Brian Hick.
Performances at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets cost £29.