Ipswich: Award winning musical Our House begins national tour

The cast of Our House at the New Wolsey. Picture: Mike Kwasniak

The cast of Our House at the New Wolsey. Picture: Mike Kwasniak - Credit: Archant

Inspired by the music of Madness, the Olivier Award-winning musical Our House has begun its national tour in a new actor-musician production at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre.

On his 16th birthday, Joe Casey treats his girlfriend Sarah to an evening in a new luxury apartment. There’s just one problem; it’s not his. When the police turn up he must decide whether to run away or face the music – a choice that will change the course of his life, his love, forever.

Written by Tim Firth, whose work includes screen and stage hits Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots, it’s a tale of life and love, heartbreak and hilarity set in London’s Camden Town in the mid-1980s - featuring the greatest hits from the mighty Madness back catalogue including Our House and Baggy Trousers to My Girl and It Must Be Love.

“In one version of the story he runs away and in another he gives himself up and we see the consequences of (both) those actions played out through the rest of the show,” says director Peter Rowe.

Guiding both Joe and us through these two different stories is Joe’s Dad, played by Sean Needham; a ghost of sorts who never returned home after being released from prison but is ever present, trying to be the best father he can.

“It’s a kind of a redemption story, I think for the dad,” says Sean. “He wants to impart at least some good wisdom in his son if that’s the least he can do, trying to put him on the right path. As the story unfolds, we realise it’s not as easy as taking the right path.”

For a long time, adds Peter, things go opposite to how you might expect.

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“The bad Joe makes the bad choice, gets away with it and his career takes off. The good Joe gives himself up and bad things start happening. In a way it goes against the grain, certainly to begin with and that’s one of the ironies... his dad wants to say life’s black and white but actually we know life often gets lived in the grey area, choices aren’t that clear cut.”

“I think,” says Sean, “in both Joes there are also elements the audience can relate to, the difficult decisions he has to make, things not going right...”

It’s a typically clever script from Firth, incorporating the songs we know and love into an original plot without them feeling crowbarred in - this isn’t a jukebox musical.

“It has all that Madness energy and excitement and I think it will in spades in our version because the band is right there in the middle of the process. Fran (Jaynes, the choreographer) and myself have been looking at some of those early Madness videos which are like little actor-musician musicals themselves - with people popping out of dustbins with saxophones and they feel a lot like what we’re doing on stage,” says Peter.

“Our show has all that up energy, it’s just the story quite often goes to dark places. I think the other thing to say about it is that it’s a love story. Both of these versions of Joe are in love with the same girl and it’s kind of about which one is going to end up with her.”

This is the first time the story has been given the actor-musician treatment.

“When I saw the show in the West End I thought it was great and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see any musicians; it just felt wrong seeing a show with all Madness songs and the band in the pit, covered over. There’s so much about the performance of the music, you want to see the saxophones and the guitars (on stage)...I think this treatment will really work for the music and the story,” says Peter.

“It really flies, partly because of the drive of the music but the flips between these two stories are kind of like that and I think it’s going to be a real rush for an audience, a very exciting ride.”

Our House, produced by the New Wolsey, runs to October 5. Check out the picture gallery above.

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