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WODS latest production “Our House” opening at the Swan Theatre last night and hit all the right spots and the first night audience loved it. You don’t have to be a Madness fan to appreciate this was a slick, polished show with a cast of over 30 who could all sing and dance with relentless energy.

Revolving around the music of British band, Madness, ‘Our House’ follows the story of London lad Joe Casey. On the night of his sixteenth birthday, an over-excited Joe takes Sarah, the girl of his dreams, out for a romantic evening. On a whim, he breaks into a new building development near his house to show Sarah the view over north London. When the police come, Joe faces a tough decision: to run, or give himself up. It is at this point that the story splits in two as we follow the fortunes, and misfortunes, of Good Joe (dressed in white) and Bad Joe (dressed in black).

In WODS production ‘Joe’ was played by Elliot Kainey with a mature ease that was very impressive. Elliot gave a fantastic performance fulfilling both characters, often in the same scene, involving 26 costume changes to signify each character (hats off to the Wardrobe Team) including one on stage hidden behind the chorus umbrellas! Elliot also sang well throughout and I particularly enjoyed ‘One Better Day’ which was sung with great feeling with ‘Dad’ and Mum ‘Kath’. Elliot can move well too – an all-round excellent performance.

Referring to Joe’s deceased Dad and Mum Kath, both were played with great presence. Dean Bayliss had a strong and easy voice which it was a pleasure to listen to and brought great sensitivity to the role. Judy Hooper also gave a great performance, stubbornly refusing to leave the family home despite pressure from developers and her scenes with Joe were moving.

Whilst Joe alternated from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ you felt the anguish that Sarah his girlfriend was going through, played with great feeling by Charlotte Hasnip. Charlotte’s numbers with Dad and Joe were also very poignant and her solo work was beautiful. So to, was Joe and Sarah’s number ‘It Must be Love’.

Joe was tempted to stray under the influence of ‘Reecey’, played with just the right amount of sleaze by Joe Millward and Paul Blower provided another confident performance as Mr Pressman. Joe’s laddish friends ‘Emmo’ and ‘Lewis’ (Henry Walters and Dan Hooper) gave great support and the girls ‘Billie’ and ‘Angie’ (Maria Stafford and Eloise Tyler) also gave confident performances. Together they provided some great humour.

The static set including a scaffold upper level, was simple and effective with some atmospheric lighting, and the changes requiring different furniture and props were slickly moved by the cast. The orchestra and sound were generally well balanced, particularly in Act 2 and the cast were all well-dressed. The choreography throughout was outstanding from the very first ensemble number featuring ‘Our House’ (including a tricky but slick skipping sequence) and very well-rehearsed and I was impressed with the energy level maintained throughout each number.

You don’t have to be a ‘Madness’ fan to spend a top-class night at the theatre. Catch a ticket while you can by Saturday.

Bruce Cowtan


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