diamond geezer

 Monday, February 03, 2003

in the middle of our street....Our House (Cambridge Theatre)

I'll confess that I don't usually enjoy musicals. Usually the composer has merely written one great song surrounded by twelve duffers, the location is somewhere impossibly exotic like the South Pacific, New York, Chicago, Saigon or Paris, and all the characters have an annoying and unnatural tendency to burst into song at any tenuous opportunity.
"Hey Curly, see that surrey over there? What Laurey, the one with the fringe? Yup, the surrey with the fringe on top..." (enter dancing cowgirls, all of whom are mysteriously able to perform a synchronised dance routine whilst waving pitchforks).

I get especially concerned at the thought of any musical based on a top music artist's back catalogue. It's far too easy merely to scrape together the vaguest of plots in order to link together all the best songs, and yes Ben Elton, I am thinking of you.
"Say Agnetha, does your mother know there's a queen over there, dancing?" "What, the killer queen in that bicycle race? Mamma Mia, let her go!"

So, it was with some trepidation that I ventured to watch 'Our House', a musical set in London NW1 based around the greatest hits of 80s super group Madness. Would the theatre be a House of Fun, or instead would the show go One Step Beyond and be an Embarrassment? I needn't have worried - the show is very enjoyable. I was put in mind of an extremely good school play delivered fantastically well, and the young cast put everything into their performance.

The story follows our hero Joe Casey into two potential futures following a break-in on a local housing estate. Bad Joe runs off and ends up rich and successful (in a black tracksuit), while Honest Joe turns himself in and ends up in prison (in a white tracksuit). Star Trek scriptwriters please note, this is the way to handle a temporal distortion parallel timeline story.

It appears that Suggs and Co were deliberately writing songs with great descriptive lyrics 20 years ago with the sole intention of making a musical out of them, so seamlessly do they fit into the narrative. Baggy Trousers was always meant to be a classroom riot, My Girl remains perfectly descriptive of every teetering relationship, and Night Boat To Cairo just had to be part of a Las Vegas wedding ceremony (OK, maybe not the last one). Even though the entire audience knew that It Must Be Love had to be coming up at some crucial turning point in the second half, it was delivered with such originality that its impact was enormous. Driving In My Car was another particular favourite, with its humorous nods at Hollywood blockbusters, and the Mary-Poppins-esque dance routine to The Sun and The Rain down at Camden Lock market had the crowd in stitches.

Verdict: House of Fun

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