Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

house cast

Our House

Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company

Lichfield Garrick


I saw Madness play live twice. They were fabulous, raucous, and with a touch of music hall about them.

I am also a gig going veteran of the era when they formed. Their incubation was not seamless.

They morphed from what might best be described euphemistically as a lad band, through innovative interpretations of traditional Ska and Two Tone , to a band whose lyrics were known verbatim by junior school age children.

That trans-generational travel and appeal has served their longevity well. Their milieu is the three minute pop song, accessible lyrics, ubiquitous subject matter, and vocalist Suggs’ deadpan delivery.

All of which does not necessarily equate with a hit musical, so I approached the night with an ear expectant of familiar songs, and an eye curious as to what I would see.

SCMTC are good at this sort of production, big dance numbers have always been their strength, and with a thirty plus cast, they can handle what is needed.

Great singing is not a requirement to sing Madness songs, attitude and enthusiasm is. Fortunately, you will never find this company lacking in that department. The winner of an Olivier Award, Our House, which opened in 2002, was written by Tim Firth, who also penned Calendar Girls.  

It tells the story of Joe Casey (Matt Branson) who, on the night of his sixteenth birthday, commits a petty crime in a bid to impress the girl of his dreams, Sarah (Sophie Hammond). When the police arrive he faces a life changing decision; does he stay and own up like an honest man, or make his escape and go on the run? The opportunity to perform the Clash song Should I Stay or Should I Go? is surely missed here.

Joe’s world splits in two, and, in a sliding doors moment, two very different paths unfold before him. Whilst offering dramatic possibility, particularly when there are two Joes on stage, the narrative can feel a little muddled, as we are offered two very different outcomes for Joe, depending on which decision he had taken.

Themes explored include love, family values, growing up, responsibility and dealing with losing the people that shape us, throwing a bit of Blood Brothers into the sliding doors mix.

car house 

Ben Addams enjoys playing villain Reecey. Mark Skett dominates the stage as Joe’s Dad, a part played by Suggs for a time in the original stage show, his performance of One Better Day being the solo highlight of the night.

Elisa Gorle (Angie), Chloe Child (Billie) Adam Coulthard (Lewis) and Anil Patel (Emmo) provide welcome comic relief as two comic double acts. The big production numbers are well handled by choreographer Maggie Jackson, she imaginatively incorporates a 42nd Street interlude into the middle of a stretched out Embarrassment by introducing a female chorus line, sequins and all. Musical Director Sheila Pearson produces an authentic period sound, whilst still offering musical theatre production values. Saxophonist Jen Pollock will have gone home exhausted.

A greatest hits medley opens as an instrumental overture, before kicking into a storming Our House, and from there the fun never really stops. All the songs were written by the band, with the exception of Labbi Siffre’s, It Must Be Love. Tomorrow's Just Another Day and One Better Day are great, superbly crafted, songs, even if at the time of release they were not best sellers.

English, laconic and wry, they are strong counter-points to the obvious rabble rousers Our House  Baggy Trousers and Embarrassment. When in doubt, Our House appeared again to keep things moving musically. The production is wonderful, the sets bold, the dancing and choreography infectious, and the songs and singing rousing, nostalgic and entertaining.

No fan of Madness, or anyone who listened to the radio in the 1980s, will leave the auditorium disappointed. But it is the songs that carry the night, with director Faye Easto doing a valiant job at driving a libretto which often has a tangential relationship with the music.

Fortunately, the finale is just for fun with the company basting through One Step Beyond and the other best bits with conviction and commitment, brio and elan. Runs to 21-10-17

Gary Longden


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