Lots of music in Our House as New Wolsey goes on tour
Our House, in the middle of our street…” We all know the Madness song. It was an impossibly catchy top ten hit in the autumn of 1982. It helped define the band as a cheeky gang of charming, musically gifted rogues.
Their music helped define a decade – a time when Britain was undergoing a fundamental change in the way that society worked, the way it did business and how it interacted with the rest of the world.
It was the era of Thatcherism, of The Miners Strike and the Falklands War. For many people it was one step beyond.
The success of Madness has inspired the musical Our House which not only utilises the band’s irresistibly catchy songs but also recreates the world, the East End streets, that gave the group its identity.
The New Wolsey’s Sarah Holmes says the show will not only form the centrepiece of the theatre’s autumn season but will also represent a new way of working and will help take the best of Suffolk out to the rest of the country.
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Buoyed by the success of the co-production of the Reasons To be Cheerful tour with Graeae Theatre Company and the Guys and Dolls collaboration with Theatr Clwyd, the New Wolsey are looking to tour their musicals to other theatres around the country.
Not only that, Sarah says it is important the shows arrive with a New Wolsey/Made In Suffolk brand attached to them.
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“It’s very much a new enterprise. As you know we’ve creating fabulous musicals for Ipswich and the surrounding areas. We produce new musicals and new productions of existing shows. Mods & Rox, 20th Century Boy and It’s A Wonderful Life were all brand new pieces of work. Our House is also something new in that it is a new approach to something that has already been written.
“It was written by Tim Firth, who wrote Calendar Girls, it had a West End run but it didn’t do the business that everyone thought it would.
“It’s a terrific piece of work and since its West End run it has been done a lot by amateurs with huge success. And also I think that since the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert and the Olympics, Madness have become more of a national treasure. They have reminded us why we loved their music.
“So we have approached the show giving an actor-musician take on the original piece of theatre and seeing whether it gets a larger audience than the original production.”
Sarah says the time is right for the rest of the country to sample the best of Suffolk’s contemporary culture.
“The Reasons To Be Cheerful tour did really well having started life here at The New Wolsey. 20th Century Boy went off last year and had another production at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and there’s a possibility that it may go out on a national tour.
“So what I said, was let’s cut to the chase. Let’s take a show which starts life here and try it out on some touring venues. So we’ve lined up six touring venues to take Our House to after the New Wolsey and we’ll see if there is an appetite for this show. If there is then we can look at a substantial UK tour with perhaps a London run.”
She said that in order to fully test the waters they have booked the show into both subsidised and commercial theatres.
“The biggest is the Edinburgh Festival Theatre which is well over 1,000 seats and Plymouth Theatre Royal is a really big venue. It’s a quality tour – a tour of top-rated theatres, so we can gauge the reaction. If it flies then we’d hook up with a commercial producer, we’d probably have to recast it because not everyone’s available but we’d stick with the same creative team. For us it’s fascinating, it’s a real learning curve and it does work, it will mean a valuable additional revenue stream which can be reinvested in the New Wolsey.
“The tour is paid for by guarantees. It’s being funded with New Wolsey money and I think it could provide an important additional source of revenue for the future. It’s an investment. It’s also a bit of a roadshow for Ipswich and telling the world about the standard of shows we make here.”
Our House tells the story of Joe Casey, who, on the evening of his 16th birthday, finds his life at an unexpected crossroads. In a moment of foolish bravado he breaks into a building site. At this dramatic moment, he finds his life going in two different directions. The show tells the story of the two Joe Caseys – The Good Joe and the Bad Joe.
In addition to the title song, among the songs in the show are Baggy Trousers, My Girl, Embarrassment, The Sun and the Rain, Driving in My Car, The Wings of a Dove, Night Boat to Cairo and the all-time classic It Must Be Love.
Other highlights include Britten’s Got Talent, a subversive comedy, from Framlingham-based director Fiona McAlpine. “It’s an alternative portrait of Benjamin Britten. There’s going to be a lot of adulation and re-staging of his works this year and this will be a slightly naughty take on his life. It suggests that perhaps some of his friends weren’t cherished as much as they should have been and there was plenty of jealousy and rivalry floating around.”
National touring company Paines Plough are returning to the New Wolsey with a show called Jumpers For Goalposts. “It’s a gorgeous show about a gay and lesbian football team and they are not that good. It looks at the relationships within the team, the tensions.”
The New Wolsey also continue their love affair with cinema with The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock which continues the topical examination of Hitch’s life and career. Written by David Rudkin and adapted from his radio play, it is being staged by New Perspectives Theatre Company and finds Alfred Hitchcock haunted by the vision of a beautiful young woman and in his dreamlike pursuit allows the audience to see how he developed films like Psycho, Vertigo and Strangers on a Train.
Sarah said that she was also delighted to have Opera Della Luna back to stage The Mikado. “It’s a lively, funky version of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and it is just right for a younger audience.”
Shakespeare’s As You Like It is being staged as a co-production between the New Wolsey Theatre and critically acclaimed company transport while the New Wolsey Young Company are staging a production entitled Punk Rock, directed by Laura Norman, which looks at a group of 17-year-old students preparing for life at college and university.
Young people form an important thread in the autumn season with the New Wolsey Youth Company staging The Grimm Fairytales and Rosi Spall from the New Wolsey Young Associates has programmed a production of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and Time For The Good Looking Boy in the New Wolsey Studio at the end of September.
During the run-up to panto this year a new Bury St Edmunds-based company Original Theatre are staging a week-long run of Peter Shaffer’s double-bill of bittersweet comedies The Private Ear and the Public Eye.
This year’s rock’n’roll pantomime will be Dick Whittington who will hit the road on November 21 to find out if the streets of London really are paved with gold. His rock’n’roll tour will continue until January 25 2014.
Tickets for the New Wolsey autumn season go on sale today.