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Theatre Review: 'Our House', The Madness musical, performed by Guildford School of Acting, Guildford

Posted: 14th March 2016

This breathless musical, packed with larger-than-life characters, embraces both the nutty spirit of the legendary ska band and the gritty appeal of NW1, weaving iconic Madness songs into a dramatic London love story.

We are introduced to the young Joe Casey, a Camden lad brought up by his strict yet kind-hearted mother, Kath. Despite the absence of a father figure, Joe's solid upbringing, ambition and spirit earn him the title of 'Golden Boy'. That is, until his 16th birthday, when a desperate attempt to impress Sarah, the girl of his dreams, sees Joe stoop to breaking and entering – sparking a rollercoaster ride of action and emotion as he battles to get his life back on track.

Through the booming narration of Joe's dad, the audience follows two stories running in tandem, each offering a striking insight into the consequences of positive and negative life choices – but will 'good Joe' or 'bad Joe' ultimately prevail?

This high-octane production provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the diverse talents of Guildford School of Acting's current cohort, and once again they did not disappoint.

Aran MacRae succeeds in portraying Joe's ever-evolving character, constantly shaped by the influences around him, and also masters the most challenging aspect of the role – seamlessly switching from good to bad.

Jessica Croll offers an emotional portrayal of Joe’s heartthrob Sarah, torn between her lingering affections for her first love and the need to focus on her career and future – with or without Joe.

Many of the more comical moments belong to Lewis McBean and Stephen Patrick, who prove a brilliant double act as Lewis and Emmo respectively – Joe's best friends, whose loyalty is pushed to the very limit.

But it is Alex Ryland-Jones who steals the show, superbly cast as the devious Reecey, stomping across the stage in full-length leather jacket, skinny jeans and Doc Martins while seeking to tempt Joe 'into the Lion's Den' and follow the beaten path to trickery and deceit.

Seamless set changes suit the relentless pace of the performance, allowing each rousing song to roll on to the next, headed of course by the iconic title track.

In truth, it is during the musical numbers that GSA's talent is truly brought to the fore – superb choreography and incisive use of props providing many memorable moments. In 'Baggy Trousers', Reecey leads the way in causing chaos in the classroom – desk lids slamming in unison, a teacher left cruelly exposed and hormone-high teenagers looking to get their kicks for free. But it is 'Driving in my car' which makes the strongest impression, a battered pink convertible taking to the stage, scenes of local roads flashing across the big screen... But of course it all ends in smoke!

Equally incisive is the choice of costumes throughout – Joe's quickfire changes from smart suit to brilliant white tracksuit allow the 'good' and 'bad' stories to run perfectly in parallel, while Reecey's attire portrays a villain from top to toe.

Once again, GSA have done themselves proud – a mad musical in every sense, a rousing performance and a giant of a production.

Welcome to the lion’s den – temptation’s on its way.

'Our House' runs on the main stage at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre until Saturday 19th March. To book tickets and find out more, call 01483 440000 or visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.