Our House - 19 April 2003

Our House is a musical I had not really intended on seeing as it hadn’t captured my interested or appeal but I have to say I am so glad I did see it !. it is a highly enjoyable show, a storyline cleverly constructed to carry both storylines in tandem and music of a definite style with Madness. The basic story is that of Joe Casey, he breaks into a flat to impress his girlfriend Sarah. The police arrive and at that moment he has to decide whether to run (wrong path) or stay and be caught (right path) and form that moment on both paths are portrayed, touching at certain points and both ending up at the moment in time with vastly different conclusions. The proceedings of both good and bad are narrated and overseen by Joe’s deceased father.

The right path is mainly depicted as white in colour and the wrong path is black. The structure of the story means that at times it seems as though the black path would have been a better choice but as time passes the right path gradually emerges. Joe is fitted in a black suave, slick back suit or a white tracksuit and cap depending on the current threads. Colour in there in the purple / red of the school uniforms, mixes with white and the union Jack umbrellas at Camden market.

The show contains several illusions and some extraordinary quick changes for Joe. At the moment where Joe’s story splits in two his father stands in the centre of the bridge above the stage, the original Joe runs behind him and then two Joe’s appear pulling away to the side. At the end of act 1 ‘black Joe is seen dancing with Sarah at the college ball whilst below the white Joe faces a second term in prison. Amongst the white inmates hats a solitary black hat identifies “Joe”. As the audience watches black Joe their attention is taken away for a second to white Joe and in that moment the black Joe has changed and the song finishes with the ‘actual Joe appearing in the white scene. Simple but effective.

During the ‘Who will buy’ Camden market sequence white Joe changes to black Joe in an instant behind the union jack umbrellas. The meeting with the property tycoon had Joe appearing 4 times, twice as each Joe within a few minutes and playing the scene from the different Joe’s perspectives.

The cat were overall very good although standing out completely was Michael Jibson as Joe. He was just excellent playing the two Joe’s who had to have the same characteristics but at the same time having to show the two sides of Joe’s character. He conveyed these two sides so well not only with deportment but at times the style of speech. He truly shone out amongst the company. Amongst the other cast Matthew Cross played an excellent bad egg Reecey,. Suggs is never going to be actor of the year but he did OK as Joe’s ever watching Dad. Julia Gay played the part of Joe’s girlfriend Sarah well enough although the song specifically written for the show ‘Back in his arms again’ did not add anything to the show and Julia did not shine in this song. Lesley Nicol was suitably angst as Joe’s mother although the character really didn’t have much scope for development. Richard Frame and liver Jackson provided great support as Joe’s friends who spend most of the time moving jobless or menial jobs to get by in the white world or enjoying a more luxurious life in the black world at Joe’s generosity. Tame Empson and Andrea Francis provided support for Sarah’s friends but he characters were stereotypical “black” women and it would have been nice to have seen mire original characterisation / writing for the parts.

The opening sequence to ‘House of Fun’ was used to good effect in telling the story but whether a combination of sound balance and diction it wasn’t always clear to understand although this was rectified later .

I may be an 80’s child but not in a ‘pop’ music sense but I was surprised the amount of the music I recognised and it has been utilised successfully to fit in with the story. Even other shows including a couple of bars of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and homage to Oliver were there.

The look of the show is in a way fairly simple. Doors on the side of the stage change depending on the current story and flats come down depicting the houses in Casey St. Other set pieces come from the sides. The car effect felt like being back in a Cine 2000 again !!

Effect of dialogue during white’s Joes’s first meeting with Dr Pressman where Joe continues a genuine conversation whilst the spotlight is on the other character. This was also done again during the ‘It must be love’ sequence between Joe and Sarah

A highly enjoyable afternoon’s escapism.

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