Review: Madness musical Our House at Theatre Royal Bath
MADNESS – one of our great British institutions. With all their wacky dancing, Camden accents and unique blend of ska, reggae and calypso, the umpteen-piece band have always been completely unmistakable.
So it’s no wonder there is a musical in tribute to Suggs and crew’s musical genius. Our House has been running for 11 years now paying homage to the ‘nutty boys’ and their greatest hits, with those much-copied Monty Python-style dance moves and even a Fez hat making an appearance.
The story centres around 16-year-old Joe Casey (Alexis Gerred) and the two paths which lay ahead depending on the choices he makes one all-important evening. After breaking into a new development of flats to impress girlfriend Sarah (Daniella Bowen), Joe must choose whether to hold his hands up to the crime or make a run for it leaving Sarah to face the consequences.
Under the spiritual guidance of his late father (Sean Needham), the story follows each scenario flitting between different futures based on the right and wrong choice. Cleverly but simply differentiated with two revolving doors, white for good, black for bad, the complicated plot proves easy to follow with visual reminders of which scenario we are in.
But it is Alexis Gerred who really transports us between the two, repeatedly changing from a white tracksuit to black suit and flicking from angry, jobless Joe who does the right thing to smooth-talking, high-flying Joe who makes things happen despite taking the wrong path.
Gerred is remarkably effortless at swapping between both very different characters, changing at times unseen on stage, bringing laughs and empathy with his ‘good’ side and groans of irritation at the decisions made by his ‘bad’ side.
Dad Sean Needham provides righteous authoritativeness as the moral compass of the story, while mum Kath (Rebecca Bainbridge) is predominantly fun and frolics interchanging between her character and playing a variety of instruments as part of the live band on stage.
Sarah’s girlfriends Billie (Natasha Lewis) and Angie (Dominique Planter) and Joe’s followers Lewis (Alex Spinney) and Emmo (James Haggie) have all the funny lines and do a stellar job supporting the main characters.
Madness’ songs do fit the storyline, with My Girl, It Must Be Love, House of Fun and Our House being easy additions, but Baggy Trousers cleverly used in a school scene, Embarrassment, originally written as a social song on racism, reworked to highlight Joe’s unemployed status and Nightboat to Cairo and Wings of a Dove used as wedding celebration numbers.
But it’s the story, which bears a striking similarity to Blood Brothers, which is the biggest problem in this show – overcomplicated for a musical and verging on the sanctimonious in parts.
That said, the music is great fun and with a live band on stage throughout, the energy running through actors and musicians alike is infectious. And the Madness medley encore gives fans of the band a real treat.
Our House is on at Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday, October 26.
Comments are closed on this article.