Review: Reasons To Be Cheerful, by Paul Sirett, Graeae Theatre Company, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until October 7

Graeae Theatre Company staging a revival of Reasons To Be Cheerful atthe New Wolsey Theatre. Picture

Graeae Theatre Company staging a revival of Reasons To Be Cheerful atthe New Wolsey Theatre. Picture: PATRICK BALDWIN - Credit: Patrick Baldwin

Graeae urges us to “raise a glass to good times” and then some with the bawdy and brilliant Reasons To Be Cheerful, a musical packed with the iconoclastic back catalogue of Ian Dury and The Blockheads.

A play with in a play, this jukebox musical reaches the places other shows can’t even touch. We time travel back to 1981 as Vinnie presents 1979. The Tories have won the election and the Blockheads- were playing sold out shows at the Hammersmith Odeon.

For Vinnie it’s a time to pay tribute to his dying father and as a fan of Ian Drury articulates the sweeping and epic way rock and roll is the soundtrack to our lives. It leaves its mark through the years, like a lovebite that refuses to disappear.

The excitement and energy of the music is powerfully realised by the disabled led company as is the political message throughout: John Kelly spitting out the BBC banned Spasticus contains more resonance now than ever. Beth Hinton Lever as Janine reclaims both the cockney rhyming “raspberry ripple” from her boyfriend, the vile Tory voting Fine Fare manager superbly played by Max Runham. She then goes onto completely own “Hit With Your Rhythm Stick” as it becomes an anthem of female sexual liberation.

Reasons To Be Cheerful, which started its theatrical life at the New Wolsey seven years ago, is a knees up to which we are all invited, bringing together the personal and political in a tribute to the society that Mrs Thatcher in the 80s would insist did not exist. There are still, moving moments as Bobby, Vinnie’s father, faces his last days and the touching friendship between to Vinnie and Colin underpin a simple narrative, but this is the stuff real life is made of.

As the audience stood and cheered this show there is no doubt Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll is still alive and well in Ipswich.

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