Review: Our House, Stage Experience, Grand Opera House, York

Review: Our House, Stage Experience, Grand Opera House, York

Review: Our House, Stage Experience, Grand Opera House, York

First published in Theatre
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IN the words of Madness's Suggs, "We always thought our songs were quite narrative, and they're little bits of theatre in their own right".

He was right. Being "witty and truthful and actually about something", as playwright Tim Firth describes them, those songs are ideal for a musical, working anew as intimate storytelling pieces and big set pieces in a cheeky but dark London tale of a young working-class lad trying to find his way.

Rather than one story, Firth has created two parallel paths in his complex structure. Thankfully, Stage Experience director Louise Denison loves a challenge and she learnt plenty from first staging Our House with the St Andrew's Players in Harrogate.

Clarity, clarity, clarity, has been her mantra, and her young summer-school charges have pulled off a fantastic performance in less than a fortnight's rehearsals. It helps that she both directs and choreographs the cast of 55, because the principals and ensemble are equally well drilled.

In a nutshell, on his 16th birthday, North Londoner Joe Casey (Reece McMahon) tries to impress Sarah (Lizzie Nunn) on their first date by breaking into the building site by his home. When the police show up, Joe divides into Good Joe, who takes his penal punishment but is consigned to a tough life, and Bad Joe, who flees and chases the high life, falling in with bad lad Reecey (Ashley Woellner) and unscrupulous developer Mr Pressman (Conor Mellor). The ghost of Joe's errant Dad (Christian Calgie), like an angel on the wing, seeks to guide his son to a better future.

In practical terms, Good Joe wears white and enters through white doors; Bad Joe wears black and enters through black doors; McMahon must play them both, and he handles the workload superbly in a Stage Experience farewell performance of light and shade. Nunn impresses in her first York lead and North Easterner Calgie has a voice that will take him far.

Above all, Stage Experience en masse prove that Our House is a better show for being handed to a youth theatre.

Our House, Stage Experience, Grand Opera House, York, tonight at 7.30pm; tomorrow at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york

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