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Our House

King's Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

There are few bands whose back-catalogue more suits the narrative trappings of a jukebox musical than Madness. This was proven in 2002 when writer Tim Firth took the Nutty Boys' canon of post-music hall social-realist vignettes and turned them into a back-street morality play for its time. It's a time that seems to have caught up with James Tobias' touring revival for Immersion Theatre Company and Damien Tracey Productions, as it follows the two paths its teenage hero Joe could take when he tries to impress his new girlfriend Sarah. Joe does this by breaking into one of the new luxury flats being built in his Camden 'hood, where predatory property developers look set to bulldoze away the street he grew up in.

What follows on David Shields' red brick and rust-laden set is an infectiously honest yarn, in which Jason Kajdi's Joe is torn between paying his dues or else making a Faustian pact with George Sampson's local wheeler-dealer, Reecey. This would mean selling both his mum Kath, played by Deena Payne, and his heritage down the canal. Overseeing all this is Callum McArdle's ghost of Joe's errant old man, who becomes the play's conscience throughout hearty ensemble renditions of Madness hits. This brings the dark domestic underbelly beneath each song's geezerish froth fully to life.

There is fun to be had as well, with not one, but two comic double acts, while Sophie Matthew's Sarah forms an appealing couple with Kajdi. But as real life big business spivs attempt to make a killing from bricks and mortar, this is a timely fable about not giving way to greed and staying true to the community you build around you.

The Herald, September 27th 2017

ends

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