The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
Reasons To Be Cheerful
Graeae and YouTube Summer 2020
tuneful, entertaining, occasionally moving and occasionally shambolic
production from the touring company Graeae and Coventry's Belgrade
Theatre was first seen in 2010, when we reviewed it HERE. This online
version records a 2017 revival with much of the original cast.
is a company by, with and for both able-bodied and disabled
performers and audiences. Typically, one performer here is deaf, one
in a wheelchair, and so on, without any particular fuss being made
More significantly, the
characters in Paul Sirett's script
are abled or disabled to fit their performers, and with the same
nonchalance, creating the very attractive and believable picture of a
group of friends who know that some among them have physical
limitations, adjust as needed, and then find no reason to mention it.
Indeed, one secondary
character is quickly established as the Bad Guy
by having him make a disparaging comment about someone else's
(Graeae's commitment to
inclusion extends to the
audience, with one cast member or another unobtrusively translating
dialogue into sign language while onstage surtitles are projected.
The video version comes with subtitles, about which more later.)
story, set in 1979, is of the adventures and misadventures of some fans
of Ian Dury And The Blockheads heading
for a gig. It requires no major spoiler alert to note that the gig
itself is a bit of a McGuffin, because the play is really about what
happens on the way.
affirmed, a romance gets going
and family ties are strengthened – all punctuated by about a dozen
Ian Dury songs. Some of the songs are incorporated into the plot,
some comment on it, and some happen because somebody onstage wants to
sing this song right now.
And so a word about the
songs. While the
music is a bit too punk-rock-minimalist for my taste, Dury was an
inspired rock poet, with lyrics that can be evocative, image-filled,
inventive and witty.
Those whose ears are not
attuned to the
enthusiastic shouting mode of the performances will be grateful for
the subtitles, particularly in such list songs as Reasons To Be
Cheerful and England's Glory.
Jenny Sealey's direction
curious mix of raw energy and careful craftsmanship that was Dury's
style by creating the illusion of less order and structure than there
With members of the cast
seemingly wandering aimlessly
around the stage when not needed or joining in songs seemingly on
whim, the whole takes on an amiable home-made quality that enhances
the happy, healthy, all-embracing quality of the show.
and Stephen Collins as the buddies, Beth Hinton-Lever as the girl one
of them has been too shy to approach, and Gerard McDermott as a dying
but life-affirming father are supported by a large cast that also
includes John Kelly leading the singing and a hard-driving onstage
If the sound is not always perfect on this video version, it does capture the energy, spirit and fun of a live performance.
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