Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Precious moments of Madness

A LIFE-altering moment, love overcoming all obstacles, trying to avoid the mistakes of your parents and disappointing someone

A LIFE-altering moment, love overcoming all obstacles, trying to avoid the mistakes of your parents and disappointing someone important — The Henley College’s young performers rose to the maturity of these ideas in Our House, a Sliding Doors-type story set to the music of Madness.

The story follows Good Joe and Bad Joe after a crucial decision on his 16th birthday — whether to run from the police or give himself up after breaking into a building to impress his girlfriend Sarah.

Good Joe was performed by Jack Frewin, Bad Joe by Matt Hawes, and Sarah by Issy Cockrem (Lottie Bell took the role of Sarah in other performances).

All three leads had strong voices and abilities. Jack and Matt represented the two sides of the role well and had great energy.

The true stars for me, though, were the two sets of comedy duos — Sarah’s friends played by Georgia Rose Stewart and Jane Beet and Joe’s friends played by Greg Chandler and Christian Gittings.

The girls were brash and just the right side of annoying and the boys were cringingly awkward and hilarious.

All four had an infectious energy that couldn’t not make you smile. My only criticism would be that perhaps they needed to contain this a little in the funeral scene as it did verge on overdone at such a sombre moment.

Layla Cray, playing Joe’s mum Kath, had a real maturity about her performance and captured the torture a mother feels with raw emotion and sensitivity. Harry Assadourian as the dad was cleverly able to portray vulnerability and power as well as showing a sinister edge — and his vocals had a lovely speech quality that suited the narator’s role.

There was a beautiful moment when father and son sat alongside each other pondering life and the two actors worked well together to show the battle a son faces in trying to avoid repeating his father’s mistakes.

Jacob Jones was strong as Mr Pressman and had that perfect sleazy grin to make him instantly unlikeable — as the villain of the piece should rightly be.

Curtis Downey, however, lacked the presence to be threatening enough for me as the bully and criminal — but his strong movement and singing shone through.

The larger dance numbers, particularly the title song Our House, were real highlights. The dancers were sharp and committed and showed true talent and the choreography was excellent — the use of levels made for something really eye-catching.

My favourite number would have to be The Sun and the Rain as it showed the two sides of the story in such a clever way, had spectacular dancing, funny moments, and who doesn’t love some Union Jack umbrellas in a song?

In the ensemble, Max Watson and Hesham Abdelhamid brought alive some lovely comedy characters and as a whole all the smaller parts were performed with intelligence and thought, although occasionally slightly rushed.

The show could have done with some sharper lighting cues and cleaner set changes, and as with all college performances it seems you can’t avoid the odd ensemble member lacking a bit of energy, projection or timing, but overall it was a strong cast and show.

Special mention must go to the fantastic band who rocked the music — particularly young Joe Carter, who I am sure will be a star in the future.

The performance ended on such a high and the cast and crew obviously loved what they were doing, meaning I left with a smile on my face and every wish that they all go on to great success.

Review: Daisy Smith

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