High hopes for Our House


Madness - Credit: Archant

Welcome to the house of fun… this is the invitation being extended by the New Wolsey Theatre this month as they stage, what artistic director Pete Rowe believes is, one of the most ambitious musicals in the theatre’s history.

madness musical new wolsey

madness musical new wolsey - Credit: Archant

Following in the footsteps of Reasons To Be Cheerful, a contemporary musical set against the music of Ian Drury and Thatcher’s Britain, Pete is now reviving Our House, the Madness musical, penned by Neville’s Island and Calendar Girls writer Tim Firth.

new wolsey

new wolsey - Credit: Archant

Like Sugar, Leader of the Pack and 20th Century Boy Pete has a knack of spotting shows which have a good idea behind them which didn’t quite work first time around. He brings them in, dusts them down, reworks them so they can realise their true potential and sends them out to great acclaim.

Reasons To be Cheerful, Miss Nightingale and 20th Century Boy all benefitted from the New Wolsey touch and having played Ipswich have gone out on national tours.

This is a system that Pete wants to develop. “We have got ourselves a reputation for staging very good musicals and while it’s great that they are seen and enjoyed by the people of Suffolk, it would be nice to send some great Suffolk cultural produce out to the rest of the country.

“The Gallery Players did a wonderful production of it here at the New Wolsey in our open season several years ago – so I don’t know why it originally didn’t take off in the West End.

“I saw it back then and what I felt about it was that the demands of a traditional West End musical were rather at odds with the lively, fun, street-life approach of the Madness songs.

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“Because you could see the band or the orchestra, it all looked rather false and forced. It was too artificial. But, what wasn’t artificial was the script created by Tim Firth in collaboration with Suggs from Madness.”

The play, set on a run-down EastEnd council estate, focuses around the life of Joe Casey who has a life defining moment on the night of his 16th birthday. He is out on a first date with Sarah, his dream girl, when he breaks into a building site owned by local property developer Mr Pressman in order to give his girl an evening in a brand new luxury apartment.

When the police turn up Joe’s life could go two ways and the show then explores both possible avenues – “it’s a bit like (the film) Sliding Doors in that respect.”

Our House is not a rock’n’roll biography of Suggs or Madness but it uses the songs of Madness to tell the story of the world that the band grew up in.

“Anyone coming to the show who grew up in that area at that time will recognise the people and the situations.”

n Our House is at The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich from September 12-October 5.