My Nostalgic Reasons to be Cheerful

Reasons to be Cheerful is inclusive theatre company Graeae’s latest touring production, an Ian Dury musical packed with energy, emotion and a little politics. You can read a full description of the show here. (Including BSL synopsis).

I originally saw the show last year at Theatre Royal Stratford East and was blown away. Recently I was lucky enough to get a ticket (which by sheer luck was generously upgraded) to see round 2 at the Hackney Empire.

Since their run last year my life has crossed paths with the performers in the show and friendships have been formed. Therefore I feel I am unable to give a balanced review as I felt the show truly was fan-bloody-tastic. And by the look of the crowd around me pumping their arms and shaking their hips to Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick , they were inclined to agree. However, what I can do is relay to you my personal and emotional response to the show.

Recently, I feel something has changed for me as an audience member, the cause of this is unknown. Possibilities are my maturity, or that I’m experiencing better and more relevant theatre. Whatever the cause something magical happened for me sat in the circle of the Hackney Empire. Admittedly, in this instance it helped that I knew the show and some of the cast.

Before the show really gets going the audience enter the auditorium to find the cast milling around the stage and in the stalls, handing out twiglets and having a chinwag. (Last year I ended up with a bowl of crisps that I tried to pass on to other audience members, who then assumed I was part of the show, cue an awkward moment before contemplating finding some doc Ms and jumping up on stage).Beyond the proscenium arch, the set clearly depicted a 1970’s pub and although I was still a little way from being a concept in my parent’s mind in the 1970’s I have strong memories of being taken to the local pub for a Sunday lunch as a child.

"Can I be in the band?"

"Can I be in the band?"

I clearly remember the awful patterned carpet complete with stains and smells, it always seemed to be covered in dog hair, although I don’t ever remember there being a dog! I loved the smell of stale beer and tobacco that filled the place and the way everyone seemed to know me, although I didn’t know them. I remember the way bad language and poor English was casually thrown around and a good old knees up (can I just take a moment to congratulate Spicer on her wonderfully energetic dancing and clapping throughout).They are strangely fond memories which came flooding back and I felt at home.

As the play went on, other themes that I could identify with cropped up, the obvious two being disability and the cuts. Regarding disability, the first time I saw Spasticus Autisticus performed I didn’t really like it. It didn’t feel like it was for me. It felt like it was disabled people against me and I remember feeling quite uncomfortable. Since last year my opinion has changed, I have gained an understanding of the song. I have come to realise that although I do not have a disability, I work in the sector and in turn I’m part of the Disability Arts Movement and their revolution, not on the other side. In a way, I am Spasticus! Oi oi!

Reasons to be Cheerful for me was a real emotional experience that allowed me to look at my life in an almost autobiographical way whilst having a good old knees up. Leaving Hackney Empire to see my mate’s giant head (on a poster, his head is a pretty standard size) I couldn’t help but grin. ‘Ave it!

The same pic in The Stage that was on the side of the Hackney Empire

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