REVIEW: Our House (Theatre Royal, Brighton, until Saturday, November 9)

Theatre Royal, Brighton, has been turned into a real house of fun this week with the arrival of the madcap musical Our House. The music may be Madness but the production is far from chaotic, with some lively performers ensuring this is a show with zest and sax appeal, bringing NW1 to BN1 with style.

Originally staged in London 11 years ago, this touring version from the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, doesn’t quite have its inventiveness and freshness, and frankly looks a little cramped on the stage – but more than makes up for all that with boundless energy and some excellent performances.

Tim Firth’s great and intelligent script is Sliding Doors meets Blood Brothers, with its tale of young Joe Casey (a remarkably assured and enjoyable performance by Alexis Gerred, who masters some amazing speedy costume changes and is another one of those names to watch in the future) and the consequences of taking the right or the wrong paths in life.

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The good and bad possibilities for the cheeky Londoner’s life, loves, and fate after he breaks into an empty apartment to impress his girlfriend are simultaneously played out to a soundtrack of the greatest hits of Madness – not as a juke box musical with songs shoved into the action with a crowbar, but in a way that makes you believe Suggs and Co might even have written the numbers specially.

Alexis Gerred is well-matched by Daniella Bowen as would-be girlfriend Sarah, displaying a pleasing and strong voice, while Sean Needham manages to be both slightly sinister and angelically protective as Joe’s dad, narrating and commenting on the story as events unfold.

There’s also lovely support from James Haggie and Alex Spinney as Emmo and Lewis, and Natasha Lewis and Dominique Planter as Billie and Angie, between them stealing all the laughs before dashing (as most of the cast do) to their instruments to provide the musical backing.

Peter Rowe’s direction is colourful, injecting plenty of verve, but never forgetting the emotional angst at the heart of the story. The choreography by Francesca Jaynes tends to be clunky at times with dancers occasionally being left in awkward finish positions, and while the sound wasn’t well balanced at first it seemed to be sorted out gradually as the show progressed.

Our House is such infectious fun that it is surely no spoiler to revel in the happy ending and delight in an audience on its feet and bringing some of those ska/pop Madness dance moves to the heart of Brighton. It is most assuredly a show with a smile at its heart.