Words by Print Entertainment Editor for The Spark, Lois Plummer.
Love, family and responsibility. Our House is a play that embodies dichotomy and consequence. It explores the dual paths that life could take after one fateful event. On his 16th birthday, Camden lad Joe Casey is faced with a moral dilemma that will undoubtedly change his life forever. Inspired by the music of Madness, this production is an energetic and creative take on the Tim Firth musical that left the audience eager to return to the House of Fun.
Opening night. Brick walls stand menacingly on an otherwise desolate stage. An instrumental medley of Madness hits floods the room while lights flicker and spin from colour to colour, pulling the audience into a dreamy flashback. Couples dance on stage as if in a romantic dream, swaying to a rose-coloured doo-wop ballad, while the lights focus on the central couple revealed to be Joe’s parents.
Fast-forward sixteen years to a humble living room on Casey Street, the same dancing girl, portrayed emotively by Gemma Hughes, is all grown-up with a teenage son, Joe, to match. It’s the night of his 16th birthday, a milestone that is sure to change the world around him as he knows it. He babbles excitedly about Sarah (played impressively by Jess Martin) who is the girl of his dreams, while the ghostly presence of his deceased father (played hauntingly by Teddy Turpin) lingers at the side of the stage and looks on. Casey Street residents and school friends all rush in to kick off the play’s appropriate first number, Our House, which is fun and bursting with quirkiness and energy inherent to the zeitgeist of 80s Madness.
But despite the youthful fun and carelessness, there are dark undertones of crime laced in the domestic landscape, with frequent allusions to Joe’s father’s legacy acting as a cold reminder – that a life of crime can only end in devastation. Inevitably for Joe, things take a turn for the worse as the police turn up when he breaks into a building development overlooking Casey Street. His life splits into two paths, good and bad; one who gives himself up to the police and the other who flees and leaves Sarah.
Seven years, two alternative lives. One path means a life of criminality while the other loses him the girl he loves.
With charming and jovial renditions of “My Girl,” “House of Fun” and “Embarrassment;” this production successfully captures an undeniably cheeky and wistful essence, stressing the importance of friendship, love and loyalty. Be sure to catch RUDS’ next performance!