Wednesday, 13 September 2017

“Reasons To Be Cheerful” by Graeae Theatre Company
Derby Theatre
For anyone who likes the music of Ian Dury and The Blockheads, this is a real treat. I love the music of Ian Dury and The Blockheads.
The show is a celebration of Dury’s music. A play within a play as explained by Vinnie at the start. It's wrapped around a coming of age story and includes classics like “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, “Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “What A Waste”, “Sweet Gene Vincent”, “Reasons To Be Cheerful pt 3” and the disability rights anthem “Spasticus Autisticus”.
The musical also features a new song by Blockhead Chaz Jankel called “If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong”.
37 years after Dury and Jankel wrote the song “Reasons To Be Cheerful”, it’s still causing a storm on stage and being introduced to a younger audience so that they can discover what a great British songwriter and performer Dury was. I’m sure that if Dury was alive today he would be a major force to be reckoned with and that he would give this show his special seal of approval. Clever and witty lyrics never go out of date.
The timeline is 1979 and the Labour Government have lost the election to the Tories. Vinnie and Colin are massive Dury fans and they are on a mission to see the man in concert at the Hammersmith Odeon; the only problem is, they don’t have a ticket and it’s sold out. When they get their hands on tickets, things don't quite go tom plan as life gets in the way.....
Performed by Graeae, who are a disabled-led theatre group. All performances include captioned dialogue, British Sign Language interpreted songs and audio description, so there’s no reason for anyone to miss out on this show.
Vinnie is played by Stephen Lloyd, What an energy Stephen brings to this show as he leaps all over the stage. In contrast the scenes where he is involved with his father, Bobby, have an emotional and sincere edge.
Colin is played by Stephen Collins. It's great fun watching Stephen perform. His character is like a naughty little boy who has grown up to be a naughty big boy. Again, a great energy brought to this play by Stephen.
Janine is played by Beth Hinton-Lever. Janine is the turning point in the play, and it's lovely to see her get the conclusion she gets. I'm saying no more!
Pat is played by Karen Spicer. The Mum in the play. This character is the Mum we'd all love to have, if we're really being honest. She is fun to watch and looks like she is having fun in this role. You feel for Pat as she is at her wits end with the man she loves but can't cope with the situation she is in.
Bill/Bobby is played by Gerard McDermott. Bobby is the father in the play within the play. Bill is the alternative role as Pat's new partner.
Nick/Dave is played by Max Runham. Another dual role, mainly as Vinnie's and Colin's supermarket boss and Janine's boyfriend. With an eye for the ladies, sometimes quite literally, under him, he is a jack the lad in many ways who loves to wind up our two heroes.
The main vocalist for Dury's songs is John Kelly. I've seen John, as well as some of this wonderfully talented cast, before. With Dury's songs his vocals are well matched and especially with the contrasting style of the country tinged "Crippled With Nerves" to the other punky/disco/rock songs.
This is one of those plays where the actors are also required to be fully fledged musicians as well as performing their roles in the play.Joey Hickman,
Nixon Rosembert, Paul Sirett (who also wrote this brilliant musical), Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth, Louis Schultz-Wiremu, Jude Mahon and Wayne "Pickles" Norman provide the music live.
Directed by Jenny Sealey, she has given us a lively, exciting, emotive and thoroughly entertaining piece of modern musical theatre.
Choreographer is Mark Smith, and while in parts it looks like it's a free for all pogo fest, the choreography is spot on for the era. With the "ensemble" choreography it's as good as anything form the West End.
Sound designer is by Lewis Gibbon and Lighting Designer is by Ian Scott. Both creating an exciting stage atmosphere.
The projection design (Duncan McLean) and Video Design (Mark Haig) add to that visual excitement.
Graeae Theatre Company is a blend of disabled and non-disabled actors. They're proud to show this and often use the disability they have humorously, and why not? They're all talented actors and after the first five or ten minutes you see past their disability and you see an actor, not an actor who has a disability.
Part concert, part theatre. "Reasons To Be Cheerful" will have you on your feet by the end as you're drawn into the party. I defy you to stay in your seat for the ending. Yes even I was up on my feet shaking my booty and making my hands red by clapping to Ian Dury's infectious anthems.
“Reasons To Be Cheerful ” gives you more than three reasons to see this wonderful show, which is at Derby Theatre until Saturday 16 September 2017.

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