Disability Arts Online

> > > Graeae’s Reasons To Be Cheerful

9 February 2012

black and white photo of the cast of Reasons to be Cheerful in rehearsal

Stephen Collins, John Kelly and Garry Robson in rehearsal. Photo by Charlie Swinbourne

A year on from its critically acclaimed run in Ipswich and London, the original cast of Graeae’s hit musical ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ have reunited for a new tour. Charlie Swinbourne visited their rehearsals.

Within minutes of sitting down to watch the cast of Graeae’s musical ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ rehearse one of Ian Dury’s classic songs, I was blown away by the sheer enthusiasm before me, and the force of energy in the room.

That’s not to say that I was witnessing a carefully ordered, synchronised performance. The beauty here was in their chaotic, head-banging abandon. Arms, legs and several wheelchairs swung around, and the floor reverberated to the sound of the band. If you could harness this kind of energy you could probably power half of east London.

black and white photo of the cast of Reasons to be Cheerful in rehearsal

Karen Spicer, Nadia Albina, John Kelly and Stephen Lloyd in rehearsal. Photo by Charlie Swinbourne

The original cast are clearly delighted to be back. Deaf actor Stephen Collins said “this is the most fun I’ve had in theatre. What’s good is there’s a lot of freedom - there’s so much you can do.”

Choregrapher Mark Smith has been working on new sequences that Collins told me are designed “to add more oomph!” I watched as Smith tweaked their movements - even joining in at one point to show what he wanted. The new tour features an expanded sign language narrative during Dury’s songs along with ‘mini films’ offering a visual representation of his music.

‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ was written by Paul Sirett (who plays guitar in the live band) and is directed by Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey. It celebrates the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and is set in 1979, during a time of great public unrest. Sealey told me: “we had no idea just how relevant the issues of cuts, strikes and redundancies would be to today’s world. There’s a link between rebellion and needing to have a voice, because lives were, and are, being ruined.”

That’s not to say that the production will get you down - it’s the opposite. Sealey told me that the response to the first night in late 2010 was overwhelming. “I realised that audiences young and old have an inner punk. Seeing 400 plus people singing and and signing ‘Sex n Drugs n Rock n Roll’ was just pure anarchy.”

As much as this production is about the music, there’s also a story that underpins it, following Vinnie and his friends’ quest to see Dury play at the Hammersmith Odeon on a journey that takes some unpredictable turns.

I left the rehearsals after several body-shaking renditions of ‘Spasticus Autisticus,’ which was originally banned by the BBC. “It was a big disability anthem back then,” Sealey told me, “but the words have not lost any of their power.”

My ticket for the original production of ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ coincided with the night my second child was born, so unleashing my own inner punk has been delayed by nearly a year and a half. After seeing the cast in rehearsals, I’m thankful I won’t have to wait much longer. My wife doesn’t seem to be pregnant at the moment, so I’m definitely going to see it this time around, and I suggest you do too.

The 1633 mile tour of ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ premieres at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre on 9th February before visiting Hall for CornwallHull Truck Theatre, Watford Palace Theatre, Dundee Rep, and Hackney Empire, ending on the 7th April at Nottingham Playhouse.

For more information about the production, the accessibility it offers, and tour dates, go to: http://www.graeae.org/productions/reasons-to-be-cheerful-the-tour/

Below is a slideshow of Charlie Swinbourne's photos of the Graeae rehearsals for 'Reasons To Be Cheerful'

 

Comments

Patrick Fitzgerald

/
11 April 2012

I went to see the final night of the play @ Nottingham Playhouse on 7th April 2012. As a 40 something Punk music lover including both Ian Dury's earlier and later music I was intrigued to see how this would transfer to the stage.

Having read a couple of reviews of the play I was a little sceptical as to whether I would be "up and giving it large" by the end of the play.

How wrong I was.

The play was strong, energetic, infectious, emotional and for a few parts it had me welling up with tears but mostly my face was lit up with a huge smile.

All the actors were great as were the band and by the end of the night and to a man, the audience were up on their feet singing, clapping and cheering.

I felt 10 feet tall and 20 years younger when I walked out of the Playhouse.

Congratulations to all the cast and band for a fantastic night's entertainment!

Add a comment

Please leave your comments. They will display when submitted. DAO encourages critical feedback, but please be considerate. DAO reserves the right to edit or remove comments that don't comply with our editorial policy, which you can find on DAOs 'About' pages.

Your e-mail address will not be revealed to the public.
HTML is forbidden, but line-breaks will be retained.
This can be a URL of an image or a YouTube, MySpaceTV or a Flickr page (we'll handle the media embedding from there!)
This is to prevent automatic submissions.