This Ian Dury Musical Gives Us Reasons To Be Cheerful

Reasons To Be Cheerful at Theatre Royal Stratford East ★★★★☆

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This Ian Dury Musical Gives Us Reasons To Be Cheerful Reasons To Be Cheerful at Theatre Royal Stratford East 4
Photo: Patrick Baldwin

Remember Ian Dury and the Blockheads? The anarchic musician who rose to fame in the 1970s was also an outspoken political activist and a witty working class hero with a talent for razor sharp lyrics. We’ve had the biopic ('Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’), now here’s the jukebox musical.

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

As musicals go, this one has the thinnest, flimsiest plot possible. It’s all based round a play being put on in a pub about some nonsense about teenagers trying to get tickets for one of his gigs. Who cares, though? The music speaks for itself and it’s a celebration of the work of a singular man who died from cancer at the age of 57 in 2000. It’s raucous, riotous, and rough and ready.

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

Dury was left disabled by childhood polio and campaigned for disabled people’s rights, notoriously getting ‘Spasticus Autisticus’, his caustic war cry against the patronising ‘International Year for the Disabled’, banned by the BBC. Fittingly the Graeae Theatre Company who developed this show is a company partly comprised of performers with physical and sensory disabilities. They’re a wryly funny, high-energy group of actors, musicians and singers with considerable talent. It’s hard not to be moved by their passion for the songs and the enthusiasm for the music shown by the audience.

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

Dury famously called Andrew Lloyd-Webber ‘a w*nker’, turning down the chance to compose the libretto on Cats. We suspect that this is one musical he’d wholeheartedly have approved of. All the performances are captioned and there’s an array of accessible performances. Now that would have given Ian a reason to be cheerful.

Reasons to Be Cheerful, Theatre Royal Stratford East, £8-£32, until 4 November 2017.

Last Updated 30 October 2017