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

A touch of madness in the house

Our House,

Highbury Youth Theatre

Highbury Theatre Centre


THE young enthusiastic team of the Highbury Youth took on the rather confusing Tim Firth musical Our House. Our House somehow managed to win the Laurence Olivier Best Musical Award in 2003 and as it is basically a collection and arrangement of Madness pop tunes, one can only think that nothing else was written that year.

The technical team had aimed high at creating a pro like setting with several radio mics for key players. Unfortunately these were either not working, distorted or intermittent.  Poor sound is especially high on my irritant list and my rule is if you need but can't afford to own or hire decent radio mics, then don't use a cheap alternative, just use wired mics or simply tell the actors to sing or speak louder.

Now the plot can be hard to follow at the best of times but the audio gremlins became very distracting and made it quite difficult to keep up with the details of the story.

Joe Casey on his 16th birthday takes his would be girlfriend Sarah out on their first date and instead of taking her to a quiet café or similar establishment, decides instead to prove his manhood by breaking into a building site by his home on Casey Street. I know we have all done it , but it is when the police turn up that you need to pay attention as when Joe is captured his life splits into two separate worlds. We have the Good Joe who stays and helps and the Bad Joe who turns and runs.

Now that's a pretty crucial element to establish as the same set of actors play the two future outcomes of Joe's fateful decisions. However due to the technical issues and at times general stage confusion that fact was often not made clear. Patrick Farrell was Joe and managed some very swift costume changes with a white track suit for the Good Joe and a dark suit to denote the change to the Bad Joe.


More technical issues occurred in the second half with projection but The Highbury Youth seemed oblivious to it all though and danced and sang on as best as they could. Their production was more about taking part and they are certainly plenty in number as the small stage was packed to overflow when the full chorus stepped out.  Whilst there was a lot of effort in the costumes and group dance numbers more work seemed needed in the choral and individual vocal performances. 

Best of those was undoubtedly Karrise Willets as Sarah; Joes love interest, which without the aid of mics could be heard clearly. The sleazy developer Mr Pressman was played by Niko Adilypour who talked through his lyrics yet looked the most experienced. Again without the aid of mics he was easily heard and delivered his lines with real enthusiasm and energy and should be an example to the rest of the cast in how it should be done.

It's a great experience for young people to take part and step out onto any stage and clearly they were all loving every minute of it. But with the public's expectations so high now with the multitude of young talent shows, the gap between performing and just taking part is ever the wider.

By the end of it though it was clear that entire cast were high on the experience with an energetic choral version of the Madness hit ` Our House.' Whilst the evening was clearly a lot of fun, the future challenge must be for them to harness that energy as team into a more organised and polished performance. To 07-07-12

Jeff Grant  

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