Our House

Oct 22 2014 | By More

★★★☆☆    Bursting with potential

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 21 – Sat 25 Oct 2014

A bouncy, big-hearted party production of Our House, the Madness jukebox musical, is desperate to burst on to the stage of the Church Hill Theatre.

Primrose Hill/Our House. Photo by Allegro Wardrobe

Primrose Hill/Our House. Photo by Allegro Wardrobe Dept.

The Allegro Musical Company, under the guidance of new (to them) director Andy Johnston, have an undoubtedly enthusiastic presence on stage.

Musical director Finlay Turnbull has got the company right into Madness’ fine tunes – much more tricky and subtle than you might think. And choreographer Caroline Howie Inglis gives them some very creditable moves to get together on the all-too small stage.

If the hits of Madness are mostly remembered as baggy-trousered, bouncy, party numbers, there is nothing simple about the storyline of Our House.

It is to Johnston’s great credit that he makes its two concurrent but contrasting narratives twist in and out of each other with great clarity.

The show starts with young Joe Casey breaking into a swanky show-flat to impress his girlfriend Sarah on his 16th birthday – armed only with a novelty condom and a story about how the estate on which he lives was built by his grandfather, who was gifted the house in the middle of the street named after him.

Sliding Doors plot

So much so simple. As is the way with musicals, the ghost of Joe’s wayward dad is watching over the pair. And when the police turn up to investigate the break-in, Dad observes the two alternative lives which could subsequently follow for young Joe and his friends.

Thomas McFarlane (Joe), Alex Arnott (Mum). Photo: Allegro Wardrobe

Thomas McFarlane (Joe), Alex Arnott (Mum). Photo: Allegro Wardrobe Dept.

It is these two alternative lives which create the Sliding Doors plot of the ensuing musical.

Thomas McFarlane does a fantastic job as Joe, working both roles with ease. He succeeds in giving the darkly clad Bad Joe a swagger of cruelty. While his Good Joe might be ned-like to look at, with his baseball cap and white shell suit, McFarlane brings a naturally hopeful naivety to him.

Emma Collins is equally strong in her role as Sarah. She has the stand-by-your man sense of internal strength – and is clearly a better judge of character than her starry-eyed friends. And she, too, helps ensure that the two strands are clear, by giving different reading to her character in either one.

Towards the end of the show, when Collins gets her pipes around a deliciously plaintive NW5 with Richard Tebbutt as Joe’s Dad – which moves off into a softly focussed duet version of It Must Be Love with McFarlane, you get a glimpse of how strong the music on stage could be.

A glimpse, only, because for the most part the opening night of the production was a technical rehearsal – or two – away from being ready.

The singing on stage looked as if it was good enough but you often could not hear it to tell if it was or not. Whole sections of dialogue were lost behind the orchestration with the sound balance being completely out of kilter.

The main losers in this regard – apart from the audience – were the central duo’s pals. Andrew Knox as the simple Emmo and Ronnan Radin as lunkhead Lewis on Joe’s side with Emma Dawson and Lori Flannigan as Billie and Angie on Sarah’s. With much of the comedy and not a little plot development in their mouths, not being able to hear them was a decided disadvantage. Particularly as they have so obviously built a great on-stage raport.

Baggy Trousers. Photo: Allegro Wardrobe

Baggy Trousers. Photo: Allegro Wardrobe Dept.

Not that all the difficulties are technical. Choreographer Caroline Howie Inglis has created some big strong numbers which still allow all 35 of the on-stage company to operate. On the whole these are great fun. Yet there is none of the crispness or unflinching commitment you expect from this company.

That said, what is there is miles ahead of the substandard professional production which toured to the Festival Theatre a year ago – although it suffered from similar technical difficulties.

Wardrobe, too, deserve a special mention with the likes of school-kid outfits for Baggy Trousers and plenty of naff eighties clobber on show. Our House might have first been performed in 2002, but Madness provided a soundtrack to the early eighties and Kate Dixon’s Wardrobe department nail that period, spot on.

Anyone seeing the show is going to come away humming the tunes. And there is still a great show waiting to get out, onto the stage. It will undoubtedly be released by the end of the run – the big question is how soon.

Running time 2 hours 20 mins with one interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 21 – Saturday 25 October 2014.
Daily 7.30pm, Saturday matinee 2.30pm.
Tickets from: allegro.ticketsource.co.uk, email: tickets@allegromuscial.co.uk or on the door.

Allegro website: www.allegromusical.co.uk
Allegro Facebook: www.facebook.com/allegromusical
Allegro Twitter: @allegro_edin

Click here to purchase the music of Our House from Æ's Amazon page

Click above to purchase the music featured in Our House and the DVD from Æ’s Amazon page


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