by Paul Sirett.

Theatre Royal Stratford East Gerry Raffles Square E15 1BN To 13 November 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30 Mat 6 November 2pm.
Runs: 2hr 10min One interval (+encores).

TICKETS 020 8 534 0310.
Review: Carole Woddis 27 October.

A Hit Me, a palpable Hit me.
Signing and deafness have suddenly turned trendy following Nina Raine’s Tribes at the Royal Court. But Graeae’s Reasons to be Cheerful, directed by its deaf artistic director, Jenny Sealey is a potent antidote and electric reminder that when it comes to art, disability is irrelevant. Anarchic, punk-strewn and Doc Martens-sporting, Reasons to be Cheerful really hits the jackpot. Disability has come of age and following their earlier show this year, Signs of a Star Shaped Diva, this Ian Dury celebration is confirmation not only of the company’s maturity but that its demand for mainstream recognition can no longer be ignored.

In the theatre where Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War! put up two carefully controlled fingers to the establishment, Sealey equally brings off a similarly irresistible and redoubtable coup.

A celebration of the Blockheads founder and lead singer-lyricist, himself disabled by polio in childhood and a great Graeae supporter, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting tribute.

30 years on from Graeae’s own birth and, as fate often decrees, at a time politically paralleling the Thatcher years when Dury found `inspiration’, Reasons to be Cheerful delivers a puckish, mind-blowing two hours. Led by his lividly irreverent songs to a story devised by Paul Sirett, signing, captions, wheelchair use and the rest are all integrated in a way that makes you simply fail to register them as anything unusual.

To be honest, Sirett’s ramshackle script concerning a love interest, a cancer-riddled, Gene Vincent-loving Dad and two likely lads trying to get tickets for Dury and the Blockheads’ Hammersmith gig is just that. But it serves its purpose as a basis on which to hang the main business of the evening.

Iconic songs such as ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll’, ‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick’ and ‘Blockheads’ are thundered over with an energy and brilliance you’ll seldom see bettered, against a lively backdrop of captions, archival material and cartoons.

Vocalists John Kelly and Garry Robson are simply astounding whilst Stephen Lloyd’s jumping jack flash, Vinnie, and Stephen Collins’ strutting Colin carry all before them. Fabulous.

Vinnie: Stephen Lloyd.
Colin: Stephen Collins.
Janine: Nadia Albina.
Pat: Karen Spicer.
Bill/Bobby: Garry Robson.
Nick/Dave (saxophone/guitar): Daniel McGowan.
Uncle Harry (keyboards): Robert Hyman.
John (lead vocals): John Kelly.
Nixon (bass guitar): Nixon Rosembert.
Paul (guitar): Paul Sirett.
Mat (drums): Mat Fraser.
Debbie (signing/dancing): Jude Mahon.
Pickles (describing/dancing): Wayne `Pickles’ Norman.

Director: Jenny Sealey.
Designer: Gaelle Mellis.
Lighting: Ian Scott.
Sound: Lewis Gibson.
Musical Director: Robert Hyman.
Video: Mark Haig.
Choreographer: Sally Marie.
Costume: Tracey Richardson.
Vocal coach Christopher Holt.
Singing coach: Heather Weir.
Dramaturg: Carissa Hope Lynch.
Assistant sound: Tom Parkinson.

Reasons To Be Cheerful is a New Wolsey Theatre, Graeae and Theatre Royal Stratford East collaboration. First performance at the New Wolsey Ipswich on 14 October 2010.

2010-10-29 14:15:09

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