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Armchair Reviewers Club - Round Up of Week 11 (Reasons To Be Cheerful)

Hello, it’s time for another week of Armchair Reviewers! This week’s watch was the 2017 production of Reasons to be Cheerful by Graeae Theatre Company in association with the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

Graeae (pronounced grey-eye) is a disabled-led theatre company that champions the inclusion of d/Deaf and disabled people in the arts. They tour both nationally and internationally to critical acclaim.

Part raucous gig, part heartfelt play, Reasons to be Cheerful is a coming of age story set to the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads. The plot revolves around a young man reminiscing about his deceased father and the night they tried to go to an Ian Dury concert. Inclusivity and accessibility are central to this performance, from the incorporation of the character ‘Pickles’ doing the audio description to the slideshow of the script to the seamless integration of sign language into the boisterous choreography. Reasons To Be Cheerful perfectly captures the spirit of the working-class, punk rock, anti-establishmentarianism of the late 70s.

Let’s see what our reviewers had to say…

‘The play within a play almost convinced me these were amateur pub players. Until the music started, with all its life and power - and the impeccably choreographed dancing. Even then I wasn’t sure… could this all be real?

So subtle, too, to avoid a more obvious ‘biography’ of Ian Dury (and the Blockheads) and instead to invent one that might be recognisable to any Ian Dury fan. Or indeed any fan disappointed not to get longed-for tickets. The full power of this tale was crafted brilliantly, with so many unexpected twists and turns - in actions as well as emotions. We were moved skilfully through displays of comic genius, such as all the banter, Dave’s perpetual orange crotch and the dodgy ailing car. The sadness too - RIP Robert Bentley and the scenes of reminiscence and reflection at the seafront.

In the age of Universal Credit - and a worsening economy - all power to the production’s political messages, as well as to its joy.’

Alison by email

We couldn’t agree more Alison! Another reviewer had this to say…

‘Such an exciting and energetic performance and so very accessible; I loved the introductions to the performers, the subtitles, the signing and the explanatory asides, “Meanwhile…”. The music was fabulous; the vocalist (John Kelly) was outstanding (even sounding just like Dury) and the saxophonist was great (to the point of playing two saxophones at once)! I am a long-time fan of Ian Dury and saw Kilburn & the High Roads (forerunners of the Blockheads) in 1976 but I don’t think I really appreciated the poetry and power of the lyrics before seeing this play. The final song ‘If It Can’t Be Right Then It Must Be Wrong’, apparently specially written for the musical by The Blockheads in 2017, was an unexpected bonus! Five stars!’

Sally via email

And to sum up…

'Oh my what a brilliant show! Absolutely fantastic!'

Lisa on Facebook

If you would like to find out more about Graeae's work take a look here:

As always, thank you so much for all of the contributions from our reviewers.

This week, we’ll be looking at another musical as we watch the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Hull Truck and Oldham Coliseum 2019 actor-musician revival of The Hired Man. Set in Cumbria in 1898, it tells the story of John and Emily, a young married couple, and their moving struggle to carve a living from the land. You can find it on YouTube here:

As always be sure to share your thoughts, either via social media or by e-mailing [email protected]

Take Care, Reviewers!

Becci Smith

Early Years and Education Officer