Reasons to be Cheerful at the Everyman
A time of great political divide, the 1970s was a period of individuality and liberation. Dominated by sex, drugs and rock and roll, punk culture left us with an extremely memorable history, the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads epitomise this culture and work as a perfect case study for its celebration. It is with this theme that the Graeae Theatre Company production “Reasons to be Cheerful” presents itself as a piece of theatrical genius; as an entertaining documentation of the raucous 1970s; and as a tribute to Ian Dury himself and everything that he stood for.
The play is set in the late 70s: a time when Margaret Thatcher caused controversial havoc across Britain. Her contributions to the government caused a violent split of opinion, and Reasons to be Cheerful does not shy away from the view of many working class people of that time. The musical is a thoroughly interesting watch, it approaches seemingly ‘taboo’ topics throughout, yet they are portrayed in such a strong way that it gives an understanding of the desperation for change that existed at the time and shines insight into their relevance today. Passion is a key aspect to the fundamental workings of a play and this one was dripping in it. From the energy during the performance to the well thought out visuals, the emotion that had gone into the production was evident.
Writer Paul Sirett explains in the programme that he wanted the musical to be a celebration of Ian Dury ‘from the point of view of his fans’, an idea which came to fruition beautifully. The story saw a group during their endeavour for tickets to see Dury perform which worked as a fitting tribute and also incorporated powerful commentary on both politics and music from beginning to end. The already relatable and emotive notion of being a music fan was heightened by the evident passion displayed across the stage, not only by the characters but the actors themselves, who sang with genuine emotion for the entirety of the performance. It wasn’t long before their infectious energy ran through the audience and numerous renditions of Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ songs came together to make a powerful statement about people and music. A statement which was true in the late 70s when disillusionment with politics was at an all time high and a statement that is still true to this day: people need music.
Aided by the use of visuals and cleverly created picture slides, the show was aesthetically supported throughout and gave an overall historical vibe. The performance also remained accessible to disabled members of the audience; this being particularly important considering the history of both Ian Dury, a disabled disability rights champion, and Graeae Theatre, a company who are passionate about ‘challenging preconceptions’ by ‘placing D/deaf and disabled artists centre stage’. It was an extremely impressive performance by everyone involved and successfully met its objectives.
I would recommend “Reasons to be Cheerful” to anyone interested in culture, passion, music and human emotion. It celebrates life on various platforms in a memorable and entertaining way and we thoroughly enjoyed it!