‘‘It’s such a feel-good, energetic show. I’ve loved it ever since it opened – it’s addictive.”
Sam Webb lost count of the amount he spent watching Our House during its relatively short West End run, between October 2002 and August 2003.
“I know it’s a lot,” says the 26-year-old, who teaches drama at a school in Great Missenden, “but as you can imagine, I got to know the box office staff pretty well so I got a few deals.”
Dreamed up by the members of the legendary band Madness, and scripted by Tim Firth, who also wrote the screenplay for the film Calendar Girls, the show follows the ‘parallel lives’ of 16-year-old Camden boy Joe Casey, played by Ryan Smyth, who is making his debut with Argosy.
It is a nerve-racking role for a first-timer but it will not all be an act; his real-life partner, Shannon Stroud, is playing on-stage girlfriend Sarah.
And Joe’s long-suffering mother is played by Shannon’s mother, Yvonne.
“Working with Shannon and Ryan is fun. It’s a bit like our own home, really,” says Yvonne, who has performed with Argosy for 36 years.
As the play begins, it is Joe’s 16th birthday and he is celebrating. Showing off, he commits a petty crime but as the police appear he is faced with a moral dilemma: to give himself up or run away.
Speeding through to his 21st birthday, the play flips between Joe’s parallel life paths – rather like Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the film Sliding Doors.
As a fanatic, Our House might have seemed an obvious choice for Sam’s second venture as director of a musical for Argosy Players, but he says his knowledge of the original was as much a hindrance as a help.
“It was hard making our production different from the one I know and love,” he explains. “But we’ve done something a bit special by staging it on a revolving set, which has given it new life.
“Plus the actors have quite a bit of freedom to interpret their characters.”
The moving stage allows audiences to distinguish between ‘Good Joe’ and ‘Bad Joe’ as they watch his life unfold.
“We’ve been rehearsing without the revolve, which has involved a lot of shuffling around, so I hope it all works in the theatre,” Yvonne adds.
“We’ll just have to remember not to shuffle any more.”
Sam has a role on stage too, as Mr Pressman, a thuggish property developer.
“I couldn’t direct my favourite show and not be in it,” he says. “I’ve loved doing it.”
He promises the plot will keep audiences on their toes.
“Although it’s a musical it’s got a really strong story. It’s quite a complex plot but you can follow it if you pay a bit of attention.”
The cast of 25 is backed by a chorus of 16 dancers from Hillingdon Theatre Dance Centre in Yiewsley.
“The dancers are fantastic and make us all look a bit more professional in the big routines,” says Yvonne.
The routines she is referring to are set to Madness classics Baggy Trousers, Our House and The Sun and the Rain.
Despite the task of adding new life to words and music firmly ingrained in his mind, Sam insists he has not found planning the show difficult.
“It’s going really well even though we’ve not had as long a rehearsal period as usual, but everyone’s worked really hard and we’ve had such a laugh. I wouldn’t say it’s been a challenge.”
His calm demeanour could be attributed to his vast experience. Sam directed his first pantomime with Argosy Players aged just 16.
A former pupil of Abbotsfield School in Clifton Gardens, Hillingdon, it was at HYART, a youth arts group based at the Compass Theatre in Ickenham, that he fell love with drama.
“It’s what I love and it’s my hobby and I work with such a fantastic group that it’s not a chore,” he says.
Tickets have been selling fast, with the Saturday evening performance almost sold out.
Sam says: “This is a great opportunity for people who have seen the show before and want to see it again, and for people who don’t know it.”
The Argosy Players was set up in 1947 and currently stages three shows a year, and from lead roles to the technical team, everyone takes part for the enjoyment.
“I look forward to coming to rehearsals. I think everyone feels like that,” says Sam.
? Our House is being performed at Winston Churchill Theatre, in Pinn Way, Ruislip, HA4 7QL, between May 8 and 11 at 7.30pm daily, with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday. Tickets cost £14 or £12 for concessions. Book online via www.compasstheatre.co.uk or call the theatre box office on 01895 673 200.