The definite highlights of Graeae Theatre Company’s Reasons To Be Cheerful co-production with Belgrade Theatre Coventry are the exciting and virulent raucous musical numbers. Featuring the music of Ian Dury and The Blockheads, this show includes Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll, Clever Trevor, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Sweet Gene Vincent, Spasticus Autisticus, Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 (of course!) Plaistow Patricia and Billericay Dickie amongst others equally ear worm addictive. The live music and song that blasts out from the stage makes our teef rattle and our wine shimmer and shake in its plastic container! All to the post punk facking good! “Oi Oi!” Dury would be proud of this most excellent cast. “The mental fackers. No offence mind! Fancy a pint or three of snakebite darlings? Oi Oi!”
Writer Paul Sirett’s original production conception is that the show would work best from the perspective of the young fan dealing with his or her desperate need to see their idols Ian Dury and The Blockheads live in the early 70’s. Tickets are as rare as duck’s teeth back then. This idea would become married with the hero also coping with an increasingly ill Dad; a lecherous idiot of a manager at Fine Fare; dealing with teenage angst itself and finding true love or maybe true lust and, most importantly, discovering that acceptance and creating solidarity amongst friends regardless of their physicality is paramount.
Visually and aurally Reasons To Be Cheerful works well but the reality is that the plot sometimes seems as thin as the paper on the bog rolls at Fine Fare. But the loose trailing plot hardly seems to matter as the musical hits and the visual glories pour out from this energetic and talented cast.
Reasons To Be Cheerful is typical of Graeae’s creative integration of sign language, audio description and captioning combined to stun and challenge audience perceptions. The visual collage on the big screen at the back of the stage perfectly augments what is happening on stage and adds plenty of depth to the show. The loose ‘we are in a London pub’ stage set is almost anarchic in itself. The impression is that of an exploded reality. That is great because this show regularly explodes with its ‘guts out on its belly’ expositions. We at East Midlands Theatre.com love the inclusion of an authentic Spastic’s Society little boy collection figure. As Ian Dury suffered from polio thereby this, wheeled on and paraded, crippled boy figure, becomes a sad reflection of the 1970s polio epidemic and its sufferers with paralytic poliomyelitis.
In the finale we are treated to a specially commissioned new song ‘If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong’ that, brings to light, contemporary social issues for the marginalised. Just a few lines from the anthem (song by Derek Hussey/Chaz Jankel/John Kelly) say it all. “If it can’t be right, then it must be wrong. What’s going to happen when our rights are gone? If it can’t be wrong then it must be right. Let’s stick together and make it right… “So sharpen up the system and fix it quick. Cut the middle management and empty rhetoric.”
Most key, are the next lines “Don’t patronise the vulnerable and add to their stress. Sort independent living and mend the NHS.” Lines that the late Mr Ian Dury would surely be in accord with. As a patron of Graeae in his life he would be very proud of this extraordinary show directed by Jenny Sealey MBE. We whole-heartedly implore you to go and see it at Derby Theatre and on its tour until November 2017.
Suitable for 14+
Strong language warning.
Abuse of toilet rolls too.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe.
Photo credit Patrick Baldwin.