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September 15 2019, David Beach Youth Competition Reviews The David Beach Competition

Our House

CLOC Juniors

The Princes Hall

Clevedon

Thursday 12thSeptember 2019

CLOC Juniors’ production team for Our House;Director/Producers Lynda Prescott and Danii Toogood, Musical Director Emmanuelle Hicks, Choreographer Anna Coleman and Stage Manager Simon Coghlan-Forbes chose well in revisiting Our House for their Juniors’ September show. It is full of the punchy, well-known hit songs from Madness, has plenty of opportunity for principals to shine and ‘space’ for a generous chorus. It has all of the elements: comedy, tragedy, romance, many opportunities for dance and even a good-triumphs-over-evil moral.

The challenge must be to make the rather over-complicated story clear for the audience. The tale follows the life of Joe Casey, starting from his sixteenth birthday, as he breaks into a block of flats in an attempt to impress the girl of his dreams, Sarah, with a view over the city. The police arrive and Joe decides to flee. Sarah questions his judgement, and he’s reminded of his late father, who made ‘bad choices’ went to prison and never came home. Joe’s father remains as a benign éminence grise watching over his son’s ‘journey’, unable to intervene.

As the story unfolds, we are shown the key moments of Joe’s life as he makes right or wrong choices, often tempted by Reecey, the local petty-criminal ne’er-do-well and running up against wicked property developer Mr Pressman. The production used black and white costumes for Joe to depict the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decisions and a clever pair of doors leading off-stage that alternated between black and white depending on which way they were opened. I have seen the show many times and had no issue with clarity, but I wonder if a first timer might have struggled a little, at least until the second act when the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ scenes are more distinct.

Performances, across the board from this young cast, were crammed full of energy and enthusiasm. The eponymous opening number, featuring around forty performers was, frankly dazzling. The choreography, care of former ‘Junior’ Anna Coleman was terrific: referencing the jerky, ‘skanking’ moves of early Madness videos and breathlessly energetic, the routine was crisp, precise and stunning. The work in rehearsal must have been prodigious as the cast danced with a confidence and apparently effortless expertise very rarely seen in youth productions. What an opening! The dance elements throughout the show continued in the same vein: highly polished, well-designed and great to watch. Ms. Coleman will certainly be one-to-watch for the future.

Principal performers were fun to watch, capturing just the right balance between youthful anarchy and the pressures of growing up into the uncertain world of adulthood and responsibility. I was particularly impressed by the standout performance of Isaac Lewis as Joe Casey. He has the full ‘triple threat’ of song, dance and acting ability. Hannah Filer as Kath was natural and very watchable; Lauren Sharp as Sarah looked just right as she tried to guide Joe down the right path; Josh Banks did well as the sad character of Dad, carrying his songs with conviction; Christian Stuckey was believably unpleasant as Reecey and Joe Pass played Mr Pressman with a smooth arrogance which worked well. I also particularly enjoyed the ‘comic relief’ pairings: Emmo and Lewis played by Scott Slimmon-Rogers and Luke Gilbert both full of the great, over-the-top energy and enthusiasm of a pair of lovable rogues and the Girls, Billie and Angie played by Pippa Heath and Evie Lewis – funny, sarcastic and ‘knowing’ and a lot of fun. Both parings were very watchable and brought a great comic balance to the piece.

The Our House cast was large and I don’t propose to mention everyone but there was strength throughout, from the smallest chorus part to the biggest lead role, everyone was committed, focussed and believable. Great job done, folks!

Since the division of the David Beach Competition into Adult and Youth sections, my role being to moderate the Adults, I have missed watching the youth entries. On Thursday, however a set of circumstances led to me being asked, at the last minute, to watch this show, in place of the competition’s usual Moderator, Chris Bailward. I couldn’t have been happier to go; CLOC are an unfailingly warm and friendly group who always work very hard indeed to deliver the very best productions they can. And this was a great evening’s entertainment which I thoroughly enjoyed: Thanks CLOC Juniors.

 

Thanks for inviting me

 

Ian