Madness musical Our House at Rhodes courtesy of Bishop's Stortford Musical Theatre Company Youth
Following their brilliant productions of last year's Hairspray and 2018's Legally Blonde, the award-winning Bishop's Stortford Musical Theatre Company Youth present their 2020 production, Our House, at Rhodes Arts Complex this week.
This heart-warming, coming-of-age 'jukebox musical' is being brought to the stage in Bishop's Stortford for the first time.
Through the music of 1980s ska and pop band Madness, playwright Tim Firth – who wrote Calendar Girls and co-wrote Kinky Boots – explores themes of love, family values, growing up, responsibility and dealing with losing the people that shape us.
Our House won the 2003 Olivier Award for Best New Musical and has toured nationally and internationally to great acclaim.
Set in 1980s Camden Town, it tells the story of London lad Joe Casey, who, on the night of his 16th birthday, takes Sarah, the girl of his dreams, on their first date.
In an effort to impress her, he breaks into a building development overlooking his home. When the police turn up, Joe's life splits into two: Good Joe, who stays and gives himself up, and Bad Joe, who scarpers and leaves Sarah to run from the police.
Our House follows the two paths that Joe's life could take after that fateful night, one of which means a criminal record and social exclusion, while the other will lose him the girl that he loves.
Over a period of seven years, Joe deals with the consequences of that night. Whilst one Joe fights to keep Sarah, the other is marrying her in a glitzy Vegas wedding. Ultimately, while Good Joe fights to save his house from developers, Bad Joe is determined to demolish it, with tragic consequences.
All this is watched over by Joe's dead dad, who pulls the two stories together.
Madness were one of the most successful bands of the 1980s – only Shakin' Stevens, Madonna and Michael Jackson spent more weeks in the UK singles charts than them.
The soundtrack to the musical includes most of their 20 hits, including My Girl, Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love and their sole No 1, House of Fun. The title track was Madness's biggest hit in America and won Best Pop Song at the 1983 Ivor Novello Awards.
Tim Firth said in 2002: "I'd always thought there was an irony that everyone remembered Madness as the nutty boys, but that was generated largely by the videos. The songs were actually just witty. And moving. And about something. And felt like they were part of a musical already. I still don't think I wrote the book of Our House, I found it."
* Our House opens on Wednesday (March 11) at 7.30pm and runs nightly until Saturday (March 14), with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets are £16 for adults and £14 for under-16s from the Rhodes box office online, by phone on 01279 710200 or in person at the arts complex in South Road.
More by this authorPaul Winspear