Our House | Review
WHEN Sackville head Julian Grant stood up and declared himself “the proudest head teacher in the world” at the end of last night’s performance of Our House, no-one in the equally proud family audience had any reason to doubt him.
The school’s production was, quite simply, stonkingly good.
Our House, billed as A London Love Story, is a morality tale set to the music and lyrics of Madness.
The plot follows the life of Joe Casey and the consequences of a decision he makes, aged 16, to do the right thing and hand himself into the police after a teenage prank, or the wrong thing and flee the scene of the crime.
Thereafter the story splits into two and over the next seven years we see the fall-out of that split-second decision: one path means a criminal record, life as a social outcast and loss of the girl he loves: the other path leads to marriage but ultimate tragedy as Joe’s past misdeeds and descent into criminality inevitably catch up with him.
Ollie Akehurst and Nicole de Barra both put in mature performances as Joe’s parents. Nicole’s vocals were warm and confident, and she exuded both humour and heartbreak as the mother desperate to see her son make good.
Ollie was also excellent as Joe’s dad.
His early death at the beginning of the show left him a spectral onlooker commentating with a real sense of humanity at crucial points in the plot. Willing his son to do the right thing, but unable to intervene in his fate, Ollie’s performance drew the two story lines together and he had the right physical presence for the role.
Both Joes were also well cast. Matt Abel brought out the vulnerability which Bad Joe kept hidden behind his tough-guy exterior and had a sweet timbre to his voice which drew sympathy for him even when his choices were so obviously wrong.
And Rhys Harmour was equally impressive as Good Joe – handsome and with a good voice, he made for an appealing and credible hero, even when the world was exacting too hard a price for his teenage escapade.
On Friday night Sarah, Joe’s girlfriend, was played by Ella Scott, a role she had shared through the run with Grace de Souza.
Ella, who looks a little like a young Sandy Shaw, was excellent in a role which demanded not only a great voice, but some real acting ability as she played through the different paths life took her with each of her Joes.
And she was particularly good in the final scene which saw her on the one hand realise that the man she had married was a loser, and on the other a joyous bride who had found the love of her life against all the odds.
The darker themes of the plot were nicely contrasted by the comic elements provided by Joe and Sarah’s trio of friends.
Joe’s mates were the hilarious Henry Lagrange as Emmo, Jack Chartlon Nevitt as Crusher and Juno Phitidis, who absolutely captured the matey-but-gormless trio.
And equally impressive were ‘the girls’ played by Megan Parsons, Tia Bertlett and Olivia Ody. Their comic timing was spot-on and their differences in size made for some lovely moments of physical comedy.
Reecey, the villain of the piece, was in the assured hands of Alex Mustard.
He started the evening a thug, full of swaggering menace, but by the end of the show his beaten-up appearance made it clear he wasn’t quite the hard man he thought he was, and his performance brought out the pathetic element behind the loser’s bluster.
Cel Steptoe as the land-grabbing – and secretary grabbing – Mr Pressman was hilarious. His camel coat and lap-cat screamed ‘villain’ and his sneering interchanges with Miss-on-the-make Hope Fuller were a joy.
But Our House is a real ensemble piece and it was clear that the hours and hours of after-school and weekend rehearsals had been time very well spent indeed.
The foot-stomping tunes lend themselves to some great dances moves and the entire support cast threw themselves into some impressive and step-perfect numbers with a confidence and brio that had the audience tapping along.
There were some lovely vignettes too, not least from Hooray Henry Callum played by Tom Axtell.
But what went on on-stage was only half the story – the other half was the superb musical support from the orchestra under Mr Heatley.
Sackville is blessed not only with terrifically talented musicians amongst its pupils, but also several adults who support the orchestra, and it was lovely to see such a diverse group coming together to create a great show.
Special thanks were paid to Anna Cooper who arranged all the show’s music for strings, and also to Edina Barczi-Bennett who had travelled from Eastern Europe to there.
And I don’t know who Mr Forsyth is, but his dad plays great trumpet.
But any school production is about more than “just” the show – it is also about showcasing the whole ethos of the school, and the spirit of excellence in this instance went right down even to the ushering done by some of the very youngest pupils who were confident, polite and clear in seating a large crowd of adults.
On this showing, the whole Sackville community can be as proud of itself as its headmaster so obviously is – and may I express my own thanks for being invited along.
It was a real pleasure.
Reviewer : Geraldine Durrant
This review first appeared in East Grinstead Online