Our House – Bridewell Theatre, London

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writer: Tim Firth

Music and Lyrics: Madness

Director: Tom Kershaw-Green

Boasting a cast so large that West End theatres will be envious, the newest version of Madness’s jukebox musical plays at the Bridewell for just five nights. While sound issues are a problem on the press night, the sheer exuberance of the 25+ cast from Centre Stage London makes for an enjoyable evening.

Despite the band being a little too loud and the cast’s microphones being turned down too low, this production ultimately shines. Of course, much of this success is down to the catchiness of the numbers. Who can’t take pleasure in such tunes as the title song or such classics as It Must Be Love and House of Fun? They are all here, along with a few forgotten hits too and when the cast comes together for the big ones like Baggy Trousers and Driving In My Car it’s impossible not to get caught up in the energy.

In Tim Firth’s book, influenced by film Sliding Doors, we see two versions of 16-year-old Joe Casey after he makes a fateful decision. One Joe goes to prison for breaking into an apartment but he remains fundamentally good. The other Joe escapes from the police but in this iteration, he is morally bankrupt. It never has been the easiest narrative to follow, but it is an irrelevance when the main point of the story is to shoehorn in Madness’s back catalogue. However, in its favour, Our House’s examination of gentrification hasn’t aged at all.

Playing Joe and dealing efficiently with the swift costume changes from white prison jumpsuit to conman’s black suit is Tate Spiers. He channels a little of Suggs’s deadpan delivery in the first half, but it’s nice to hear more variation in his voice in the second. He’s supported well by Charlie Nicholas and Jack Bolton who play his comically useless friends.

Suriyah Rashid is in fine voice as Sarah, Joe’s on/off girlfriend, but it’s a shame that her character hasn’t a bigger role in Tim Firth’s book. In an effort to give the female actors from Centre Stage London more parts, director Tom Kershaw-Green has turned two of the characters into women including the unscrupulous property developer who now becomes Mrs Pressman. Here, Siobhan McConnan finds her inner Kathy Burke to give a hilariously repugnant performance.

But with so many on stage, it’s hard to pick a favourite. When the cast fills the stage and dances in the stomping ska manner that Madness adopted the songs are joyful. However, when the dancing veers more into contemporary dance, the result is less effective and looks a little cheesy. Guiding all the action is the superb band led by Joe Rees and it’s just a shame that it remains hidden up on the balcony when the music – and that saxophone – are so vital to the story.

If the sound problems can be sorted, Our House is worth leaving your house for.

Runs until 29 July 2023

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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