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Reasons to be Cheerful review at Derby Theatre – ‘fresher than ever’

The cast of Graeae's Reasons to be Cheerful at Derby Theatre The cast of Graeae's Reasons to be Cheerful at Derby Theatre
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Jenny Sealey, Graeae’s artistic director, believes there’s an inner punk in everyone. You can well believe it watching an audience launch full throttle into Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll as fervently as when Ian Dury and the Blockheads blasted it out at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1979.

Using Dury’s music as its basis, this 2010 show pits the rip-roaring story of that night against the backdrop of the Tories’ rise to power – and it feels fresher than ever in this new touring version, given added impetus by the lyrics of a new number, If It Can’t Be Right It Must Be Wrong, a diatribe against the proponents of the present Welfare Reform Bill.

Sealey’s production is one of glorious anarchy – there’s a point during Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick when someone’s banging their head with a tray while a musician stands atop a pool table simultaneously playing two saxophones. But the poignancy in the story of Bobby’s cancer that can instantly still the house. John Kelly delivers the full fury of Spasticus Autisticus but he’s also moving in the ballad numbers.

Video imagery provides a stark reminder of old attitudes to disability: plaster children wearing calipers and the Council for the Care of Cripples – there’s liberation in the way Beth Hinton-Lever’s Janine uses rhyming slang to declare herself a raspberry ripple.

Far from being an add-ons, the creative integration of sign language, audio description and captioning adds to the theatricality.


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The return of Graeae’s storming, raucous, audacious show fuelled by the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads