MusicalNorth WestReview

Reasons to be Cheerful – Liverpool Everyman

Writer: Paul Sirett

Music: Derek Hussey, Chaz Jankel and John Kelly

Director: Jenny Sealey

Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin

Are you sitting comfortably … then forget it. Feeling comfortable is the last thing you’ll find with this show, which is billed as a raucous musical. Raucous does not begin to cover the foul-mouthed, hot-tempered and politically strident show featuring the hits of Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

Set in the 1970s but updated with a new number If it can’t be right it must be wrong The musical unashamedly champions the plight of the deaf and disabled being trampled on in our current struggle for economic survival. It is staged by the Graeae Threatre Company which aims to break down barriers and challenge preconceived ideas by placing deaf and disabled artists centre stage. It integrates sign language, audio description, and captions to engage both disabled and non-disabled audiences.

This bizarre cocktail of Punk, bad taste laced with more of the traditional drama ingredients of love, betrayal, impending death and nostalgia does work. Mainly because, like Dury, the script mocks itself. True, the story is a thin plot about a group desperate to get sought-after tickets for an Ian Dury concert and I’m not sure this musical knows when to end. But not many shows finish the first-half by extolling their audience to use the interval to enjoy “Drugs and sex and rock and roll”.

It is very much an ensemble piece but the power and presence of lead vocalist John Kelly stands out. He had great support from Stephen Lloyd as Vinnie, the likely lad desperate to get his pals to the concert, plus a powerful but sensitive, without being slushy, performance from Gerard McDermott as Bobby, his dying dad. From his wheelchair still railing against the iniquities of the system and the only swear word that upsets him is “Tories”.

In charge of the blighted family is the delightful Karen Spicer as Pat the mum desperately trying to keep everyone’s feet on the ground as she breaks her heart caring for her man. Max Runham goes over the top as a cartoonesque version of the kind of arrogant boss we have all met. He thinks he is God’s gift to the women in his supermarket. His abuse of crippled Janine (Beth Hinton-Lever) being the push that Vinnie needs to rebel.

The sprawling Everyman is the ideal playground for this toxic tableau directed with great verve by Jenny Sealey and fully exploited by the designer Liz Ascroft.  It seems nobody can resist the stand-up clap-along finish culminating, possibly predictably, with Hit me with My Rhythm Stick.

Some politicians seeing this unbridled display of angry exuberance might have reasons to be fearful.

Runs until 21st October | Image: Patrick Baldwin

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. 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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