Madhouse by Nottingham New Theatre at [email protected]’s Hall does what it says on the tin. Open the lid and there is a household of six students enjoying and suffering the ups and downs of shared accommodation.
a high-energy, swinging production
The madness is evident from the moment they all stumble onto the stage and take their seats around the communal table. Vividly coloured hair and party costumes seem the norm in a venue accustomed to the bizarre and the eccentric from among the idiosyncratic individuals who make up this group. Ollie (Olly O’Regan) is lost in love, mostly with his books. Annie (Izzy Johnson) is just full of lust. Goose (Pete Rouse) is simply spontaneous. Soniya (Sunenna Sohal) is the practical one. Billy (Charlie Catmur) is a dream, or in a dream. There's one more to come.
Now the party, interspersed with moments of reality checks, can begin with a much needed card game that is a diversionary activity in the midst of overwhelming debt, romances that are both complex and perplexing and piles of rubbish. The script provides plenty of comedy and the cast knows how to deliver it, with enunciation that is refreshingly clear. The analogy of the kebab scene is a gem of writing and first rate timing, which is characteristic of all performers.
Apparently, this fabulous comedy and first in-person show by M Craig emerged during a light-hearted debate about whether to turn the heating on; a big decision for undergrads with little income. She then reimagined the conversation in the form of a comedy sketch and added further scenarios from everyday student life to complete the play. To this mix, we are told, were added ‘additional influences from Patrick Marber’s Closer, to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag’ and a good measure of ‘self-indulgent influencers storming social media’. This last ingredient receives a full measure in the character Lisa (Rachel Coussins), who cuttingly plays a toxic individual sometimes thought to be possessed by satan.
Madhouse is a high-energy, swinging production, complete with musical accompaniment that is a joy to watch.