Defiant teenagers pogo around the stage, exploding into impassioned impressions each time an Ian Dury song is even referenced, let alone played in full. But for all this wilful wildness, Reasons To Be Cheerful feels slightly too polished, a little too planned; there’s revelry here but is there real rebellion?
This is partly to do with a story that purely acts as scaffolding to as many Dury songs as possible. Dury fans Vinnie, Colin and Janine are determined to see him live, but when a road trip goes wrong, they end up experiencing something incredibly different, although just as important. In a pub play within a play, they are here to share the events of that day and honour someone very dear to them.
A talented bunch they are, sweeping us up in a sophisticated production
It’s a slight premise for a two hour show and a rather sentimental one. It’s hard not to imagine writer Paul Sirret saying ‘To hell with character development, we need to get Wake Up And Make Love With Me in here by hook or by crook so Janine better start feeling sleepy’. This laziness is annoying as it comes mingled with sporadic moments of beautiful dialogue and flashes of poignancy that enrich this likeable gang and leave one feeling that this could have been much better.
But the cast and band are amiable in the extreme and their eagerness goes a long way in winning one over. Even if the knowingness of their bon ami becomes a little grating, they are brilliant, performing each moment to the hilt. Graeae have once more produced a fully integrated and accessible show, that bypasses discussions of disability to focus squarely on the talent on stage. And a talented bunch they are, sweeping us up in a sophisticated production which goes a long way to belaying the simplicity of the script. If a little contrived, Graeae still prove there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful in this boisterous night out.
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Runs to 13th November 2010