Our House/Malvern Theatres

IT was always on the cards that a musical would emerge out of the Madness story and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing it better than writer Tim Firth.

The band – I never ascertained anything remotely mad about them – were a collection of superbly talented London musicians who rode the 1980s Ska and Two-Tone wave and remained at its crest for the best part of that decade.

Ska and reggae, with their lurching rhythms and sax-heavy melodic lines, found a new voice in bands such as Birmingham’s UB40, but Madness were by far the most interesting.

The former were copyists but Madness always injected a quirky Britishness into their creations and that’s the primary reason why Our House clicks from the word go.

The plot is familiar enough. This is a sort of London north-Westside story, a gritty parable of unlovely streets and frustrated ambitions. Joe Casey (Jason Kajdi) is a working class lad who wants to break free from the spiral of deprivation and petty lawlessness, despite being continually egged on by dodgy mate Reecey (George Sampson).

However, Reecey’s not just a pinch-faced skankster who wants to lead Joe astray but a break-dancer to boot, capable of some breathtaking moves.

Playing the part of Juliet to Joe’s Romeo is demure nice girl Sarah (Sophie Matthew) who pops up like a cork at regular intervals on the surface of Joe’s flash flood of a life.

These three immensely talented actors dominate the stage for much of the production, exuding all the vibrancy and passion of youth triumphant against impossible odds.

As you might expect, there’s plenty of Madness music to satisfy first-time fans. But this show also features an explosion of fabulous street dance that bridges any generational divide, thanks to Fabian Aloise’s electrifying and inspired choreography.

This is a humdinger of a night out and you’d be mad not to check it out. It runs until Saturday (September 16).

John Phillpott