Mad House Productions (IOM) finally bring Our House to the Manx public for a three day theatre run in Douglas, and the cast and production team ‘hit the spot’ with an energetic rendition
Going by what I saw last Thursday evening, the goal was undoubtedly achieved.
Written by Tim Firth and first produced in October 2002 at the Cambridge Theatre, London, ‘Our House’ won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical the following year.
Among its most ardent fans were the four future directors of what was to become Mad House Productions (IOM).
Partners in crime Jooles, Sandie Divers, Sarah Holland and John Short loved the show so much that they plotted to bring it to a Manx audience.
After what must have been the shedding of much blood, sweat and tears, over August 29-31 their vision was finally realised.
It proved to be some vision.
The cast’s shared passion for the show and enjoyment in performing it were unmistakable, and the audience were dancing with them by the end of the night, transported by their enthusiasm.
Joe Hilliard and Abi Newton were assured in the leading roles of Joe and Sarah, while Jack Divers injected a genuine dose of menace as the smooth-talking and perfidiously reasonable villain Reecey.
Dean Callow, playing Emmo, was a treat, providing many of the production’s pure comedy moments and stealing the action whenever he was on stage.
The ‘sliding doors’ structure was well-balanced and competently handled, with Joe Hilliard equally at ease in his ‘Good Joe’ white tracksuit and ‘Bad Joe’ black shirt.
There’s ‘a right way and a wrong way – it’s a very simple equation,’ says Joe to his mother, when she attempts to defend his errant father.
In fact, there’s nothing simple about it and surely enough, his words come back to haunt him.
‘Our House’ questions the polarisation of good and evil; as a result of his chivalry in assisting Sarah, it is the ‘Good Joe’ who is sent to a young offenders’ institute and whose criminal record later deters employers from offering him a job.
Such issues merit fuller exploration than they are afforded by Tim Firth; the problem is not one of a dearth but of an over-abundance of material.
‘Our House’ attempts to be many things: a Madness tribute, a fun-packed family show and a thought-provoking interrogation of the relationship between choice and consequence.
At times, it feels as if it is bursting at the seams and it is this latter dimension which is thinly-stretched, too often drowned out by the rambunctious trumpet and sax.
Yet for uncomplicated entertainment, ‘Our House’ hits the spot.
As the cast took their final bow, the screams from the audience were ear-splitting.
Most of its members would happily have sat through an encore – and judging by the boundless energy of the cast, they’d have been ready to oblige.