Our House Review

If you have followed this blog for a while you will probably already assume this, but I have never been a huge fan of the ska band Madness. Having been raised on Rock and Metal throughout my 21 years of life, they are never a band I had properly come across, which made my trip to the King’s Theatre Portsmouth to see the Madness musical Our House highly out of character.

Written by Tim Firth, Our House follows the story of Joe Casey (Jason Kajdi). Starting on his 16th birthday, we find Joe trying to impress his girlfriend Sarah (Sophie Matthew), where he is quick to face a decision between right or wrong which ultimately impacts the rest of his life. This is where the story truly begins, as the life paths of both good Joe and bad Joe are explored, creating this high-energy musical with two deeply satisfying storylines.  

It goes without saying that music is a key element of the show, and I must admit that they are well integrated into the plot and story - which is something that I didn’t fully expect. Hits such as ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘It Must Be Love’ and ‘My Girl’ are but a few of the songs that are well integrated within the story, and there isn’t a single song that appears to be forced into the show for the sake of it. On top of this, the innovative crossover of songs, such as "Tomorrow's Just Another Day" with "The Sun and the Rain" added true depth to Joe’s parallel lives, and gives me goosebumps at just the thought of it.

Linking to music is of course the band - a hugely talented four-piece consisting of; Dustin Conrad, Peter Hutchinson, Kerry Williams ad Nicky Caulfield. For just four people, they did an incredible job of filling the venue with their punchy musical talents, and the MD, Dustin Conrad, who also played the keyboard, was one of the most cheerful keyboard players I am yet to see, incorporating the musical headbob and sassy page flicks throughout (what a legend!)!
The cast as a whole did a fantastic job of performing and pulling off fantastic musical numbers. Jason Kajdi, playing Joe Casey, stole the show as he embodied the two versions of Joe perfectly, with his quick-changing characterisation not only wowing the audience, but also making it easy to identify which version of Joe he was. Having barely left the stage throughout, Kajdi was still able to maintain energy and excitement, as well as perform complicated choreography and delivering an incredible vocal performance. Jason Kajdi performed outstandingly throughout without even the slightest hint of exhaustion, and I’m sure that we will be seeing a lot more of him on stage in the near future.

Coupled with Jason Kajdi is Sophie Matthew, who is making her professional debut in the role of Joe’s girlfriend Sarah. Sophie offers a realistic and natural approach to this role, with her stunning vocals leaving many audience members speechless, and offering many genuine and moving moments. Sophie has a real talent, and I am sure that her career will be highly successful in the future.

Taking on the role of school bully Reecey was George Sampson, who impressed me more than I had expected. Obviously his dance was a main strength, which choreographer Fabian Aloise utilised in a subtle manner, whilst still allowing for frequent solos. Vocally, Sampson fitted into the role of Reecey and offered a polished performance that truly captures some of the kids I remember from school - a flawless performance.

Along with George Sampson, Deena Payne is another key face on the posters advertising the show. Well known for her role of Viv Hope in Emmerdale, Deena took on the role of Joe’s mum, Kath Casey, and was a strong support within this role. Deena has a fantastic vocal talent, and it was a shame that her role was smaller than what I had thought it would be, but nevertheless, she certainly gave it her all and was highly energetic within dance numbers as well. Playing Joe’s father was Callum McArdle, who narrated the show within his role, and whose vocals were also impressive, along with his on stage relationship with Deena. Although they hardly interacted with one another, the pair still clearly displayed their relationship in a way I can’t explain, and I feel they were both well casted for these roles.

Joe’s friends Emmo, played by Billy Roberts, and Lewis, played by Will Haswell, are probably two of the greatest characters I have ever seen on stage, with impeccable comedic timing and an ability to capture a true friendship and chemistry which made their characters come to life. Similarly, Sarah’s friends Billie and Angie, played by Etisyai Philip and Jessica Niles, had the audience laughing with their over the top characters, incorporating fantastic body language and behaviors to complement the humour of the script.

Lastly, the ensemble and on-stage swing were a huge strength of the show, filling multiple cameo roles each. There was not a single weak link, and every member of the cast brought something valuable to the stage, without which the show would feel as though it was missing something.

As a whole, the cast were highly energetic, and worked well together to ensure every transition and character change was flawless. The group are clearly very close, and the fun that they are having easily transferred to the audience, to the point where you just want to get up and join in with them.

Another key part of the show success, other that the cast and band, is the creatives, who have a mammoth job of pulling off this challenging and intelligent storyline. James Tobias’ direction is fast-paced and comedic, ensuring that the show runs smoothly, without losing its gritty nature. Fabian Aloise offers exciting and astounding dance routines, which had me gasping in awe throughout a majority of the show, featuring lifts, jumps and what looks to be thousands of health and safety risks in the most fantastic way possible.

David Shields designed an intelligent set, which was both visually pleasing and functional. The moving doors concept is a clear visual indicator of the change in Joe’s pathway, and the costumes gave huge indicators in the characters and lifestyles. To me, this show would not work as well without this set and costume design, and I was truly amazed at all of which these elements made possible live on stage.

Overall Our House is the perfect mixture of fun and thoughtful, executed perfectly with catchy music, infinite energy and talented cast and creatives. From the set to the script, dancing to costumes, everything within the show was spot on, and I still can’t fully get over some of the visual spectacles, which I feel will stay with me forever. I thoroughly recommend this musical to everyone, and it’s safe to say that I have been converted into a madness fan.

For more information, or to buy tickets, visit: http://www.ourhousetouruk.com/


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