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"Reasons to be Cheerful" at the New Wolsey Theatre

Reasons to be Cheerful by Graeae Theatre Company

New Wolsey Theatre

‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ is a musical production which incorporates the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads and uses the punk anarchy of Thatcher’s late 70s Britain as its backdrop.

Vincent (Stephen Lloyd) and his friend Colin (Stephen Collins) are massive Ian Dury and the Blockheads fans and desperate to get tickets to one of their gigs. Their smarmy boss, Dave (Max Runham) has some tickets even though he’s not that keen on the band and worse, he’s not that bothered about his girlfriend, Janine (Beth Hinton-Lever), who Vincent is clearly falling for. Along on this roller coaster ride of young love and rock n roll is Vincent’s Dad (Gerard McDermott), coming to terms with his deteriorating health and teaching the kids to make the most of every moment.

The trademark of Graeae Theatre Company’s ‘trail-blazing’ theatre is a totally accessible performance; the signing, audio description and captioned dialogue on screen is worked seamlessly into the fabric of the play. Similarly, the songs of Ian Dury and the Blockheads work brilliantly and even though their hits are a bit before my time, I knew more than I thought I did and was captured by their political humour and clever lyrics.

The sheer energy of this company of multi-skilled actors, many of whom play instruments too, just blew me away and John Kelly’s lead vocals were a highlight. The vitality and conviction seemed to express the spirit of the day and was a rallying cry to stand up for disability rights and independence generally. By the end of the night the audience was on its feet, rocking along to ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’ and hailing a new protest song, written for this 2017 revival of the production, ‘If it can’t be right then it must be wrong’. We left the theatre on a high, feeling charged up, ready to wave a placard and happy to be alive.

I highly recommend this show to anyone who wants a fantastic, feel-good night out with an anarchic edge. The production runs until Saturday 7th October at the New Wolsey Theatre before it heads off to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Everyman Theatre in Liverpool and Theatre Royal Stratford. 

Caroline Roberts

Undergraduate at the University of Suffolk

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