Knocking on the door of Our House with St Albans Youth Music

Our House dress rehearsal at the Abbey Theatre

Our House dress rehearsal at the Abbey Theatre - Credit: Archant

We have all made bad choices in life at some stage, but can one decision start a whole chain of events that will shape your life? That is the question posed in Our House, performed this week by St. Albans Youth Music, at the Abbey Theatre.

Our House dress rehearsal at the Abbey Theatre

Our House dress rehearsal at the Abbey Theatre - Credit: Archant

With a script written by Tim Firth, and with music and lyrics by Madness, the show features many of their best-loved songs, including It Must Be Love, Baggy Trousers, and of course, Our House. The show premiered at the Cambridge Theatre in 2002, and was the winner of the 2003 Olivier Awards for Best New Musical.

The story follows Joe Casey, a lad from Camden. On the night of his 16th birthday, he makes a choice that will change his life. Trying to impress Sarah, the girl of his dreams, he commits a crime. When the police arrive, he has to decide whether to face the music, or run away, leaving Sarah to fend for herself.

From this point, the narrative splits, following the two paths that Joe’s life could take. One way leads “Bad” Joe to a life of crime, the other causes “Good” Joe to lose the girl he loves. Over a period of seven years, and two alternative lives, Joe deals with the consequences of his decision.

This is no easy feat for the lead boy, who has to create both versions of Joe, along with some astonishly quick costume changes. The rest of the cast also play several characters each, from all walks of life. They have to deal with some complex emotional scenes, as well as energetic song and dance routines.

Our House dress rehearsal at the Abbey Theatre

Our House dress rehearsal at the Abbey Theatre - Credit: Archant


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Over 40 young people between the ages of 11 and 18 are involved in this production. Of course, Madness had many hits in the ‘80s and ‘90s, long before the cast were born.

Professional actress and musician, Emma Barry, who is musical xirector, has been very impressed by their commitment: “I was familiar with the music already as I was in a production of Our House a few years ago.

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“It has been a fantastic choice for the kids to do, and brings a flavour of the ‘80s back for their parents and other audience members!

“The show appeals to all ages, and the cast have all become great Madness fans. It has been great fun, and I’m looking forward to audiences enjoying the massive amount of energy the kids are bringing to the show.”

Choreographer for Our House is Katy Jane Meehan. A dancer since the age of four, Katy is current National Disco Freestyle Champion, and has choreographed and performed in various local musicals.

“This is my third year with SAYMT, and it has been a lot of fun. There is no formal dance style for this music, which has given me a lot of freedom, and allowed the company a chance for self-expression. There are wonderful moments where the children’s individual characters shine through, and shows just how talented and creative they are”.

Director Lee Harris said: “The show explores the sliding door effect. What if I hadn’t left the house at that time, or said what I did to a certain person? Did I make the right choice? The fact is, there are good and bad choices, and some that fall into a grey area in the middle.

“We can never know what tomorrow will bring. I think one of the closing lines of this piece puts it beautifully: If, at the end of the day, you are surrounded by the people you love, then you have made the right choice.”

Performances take place on the Abbey Theatre Main Stage from tonight (Thursday) until Saturday at 7.30pm with an extra matinee performance on Saturday at 2.30pm. To book tickets go click here or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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