Review Author: Joe Clarke
Our House tells the story of Joe Casey, who, on the night of his 16th birthday makes a decision that will change his life. The story then follows both paths that Joe could’ve taken that night for the next seven years until it finally comes together at the end. The score is entirely made up of songs from the group Madness.
The director for this production was Nick Cupit. Visually, this musical was fantastic. The clever set, lights, choreography and costumes made it visually pleasing to the eye. Adding on the outstanding orchestra made it a delight for the ears. For me, the direction was very good. The pace was great throughout and the energy from the cast was fantastic. For the most part, the set was used very well. I loved the use of the two revolving doors at the side of the stage. This enabled the audience (along with Joe’s costumes) to know which part of the story they were following. The projections on the screen at the back added to establishing locations although some of them were day-time pictures when it was night-time in the text. There was an error with the street sign which displayed NW1 when the text and the projections both said NW5. I can appreciate that because the plot jumps from different sides of the story that this could’ve been a logistical nightmare to direct, but the storyline was clear and very cleverly handled. There are a LOT of quick costume changes that needed to be incorporated into rehearsals, particularly for the character of Joe and I thought that this was expertly executed. The passion and the energy from the cast was fantastic but sometimes this was to the detriment of the text. Accents and diction were an issue from lots of the cast, and I would’ve loved to have seen more naturalism in the serious parts. There was a lot of showing emotions rather than feeling the emotion. I was also a little disappointed that so many of the cast broke the fourth wall throughout as I feel that Joe’s dad is the only one that should see the audience. Overall though, I really enjoyed this production and the supportive audience certainly did. They clapped from the overture to the standing ovation at the end.
The musical director for this production was Matt Corrigan. There is nothing more to say other than the band were outstanding. Playing hits such as these, there might’ve been mutiny in the audience if they weren’t quite so great but needless to say, under Matt’s leadership, the band were superb. A special mention has to go to Diane Hammond for her excellent saxophone skills!
Choreography (Claire Hennessey) was brilliant also. It showcased the great dancers that this society has, as well as being inclusive for all. ‘Baggy Trousers’ was outstanding and one of the best ensemble pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year! It perhaps would’ve been nice to have seen a bit of Rumba or Latin flavoured choreography in Wings of a Dove, but this is just a suggestion. I really enjoyed the constant walking transitions which were effective for costume and scene changes.
A special mention must go to Hannah Young and Helen Connor for their hard work in creating seamless transitions from costume to costume, especially for the character of Joe. The entirety of costumes for the ensemble was effective in uniformity and it helped create character and establish style, tone and location.
Lighting was fab. The colours, gels and ways in which the stage was lit added layers to scenes and songs and enhanced the overall piece. Sound was an issue. I felt that mics were too loud throughout, which meant that every time someone shouted, it distorted the sound quality. Opening lines of dialogue were missed throughout also due to mics not being cued correctly. Someone’s mic was also left on backstage which meant that the audience could hear them whispering.
Blair Smith played the role of the protagonist Joe Casey. Blair was rarely offstage as he holds the whole piece together. He was also equipped with 30 plus costume changes, one of which happened onstage – Blair was perfect casting for this role and coped with everything with ease. He displayed some lovely vocals and I had suitable light and shade in his scenes. He showed great storytelling and showed a range of emotions. Well done Blair!
Olivia Pryer played the role of Sarah, Joe’s girlfriend. Olivia showcased her beautiful vocals and had a great rapport with Blair. Their rendition of ‘It Must Be Love’ was joyful. Olivia showed a range of emotions and gave a confident performance. I wasn’t a fan of Sarah’s styling, but this is just opinion.
Alex Clare played the role of Joe’s Dad. This role is the narrator of the whole piece and the one that constantly speaks to the audience and brings the whole show together at the end. Alex was very laid back in this role and a little Blaise. I would’ve liked a more energetic and committed performance. Alex was suitably funny in ‘The Road to Cairo’ and it was great to see this contrast.
Dawn Lloyd played the role of Joe’s mother, Mrs Casey. Dawn was also very laid back in this role and because of this some of the jokes didn’t land. The major problem for Dawn was her Irish accent which made it very hard to hear the text. I think perhaps too much concentration was spent on getting the accent to sound right rather than the emotion in the lines.
Daniel Richter and Mikey Jones played the friends of Joe (Lewis and Emmo). Daniel displayed great physicality and comic timing whilst Mikey displayed great comedy skills and one liners. Both actors had a fantastic rapport and it was clear that a lot of work has gone into creating and establishing relationships (along with Blair). Diction and commitment to character was fantastic from both.
Megan Maher (Billie) and Jessie Scotson (Angie) played the friends of Sarah. Whilst Megan and Jessie had a great rapport with each other their bond with Sarah (Olivia) wasn’t as strong as the boy’s rapport with Joe (Blair). Both Megan and Jessie were very funny, and Jessie showcased great one liners and comic timing. ‘I like driving in my car’ was very funny and well put together.
Peter Brennan played the role of Reecey, the baddie. Peter was strong in this role and convincing as the bad boy. Peters diction and articulation was brilliant – even if he sounded a little like Michael Caine! Peter also sang wonderfully well in ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘Shut up’.
Neil Atherton (Mr Pressman) did well as the stereotypical gangster character. Neil had lovely storytelling and was vocally very good. A special mention has to go to Lisa Connor’s role as Mr Pressman’s receptionist. Whilst a small role, Lisa made the character come alive and was very funny in her scenes.
This is very much an ensemble piece and every actor had their part to play. Whether it was crossing the stage in a transition, playing a character for thirty seconds or being the ‘other’ Joe Casey, each ensemble member worked hard to enhance the overall production. Without their hard work this wouldn’t have been as energetic and pacey as it actually was. The singing and dancing were great, and the audience were thoroughly entertained throughout!
I thank Centenary for their hospitality and wish them all the very best for their next production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes in May 2020.