Choc-a-block with catchy tunes and feel-good fun, The Picture House tells the story of Penny and Oscar, a sweet couple torn apart by the Second World War. Though the horrors of war are touched upon, the primary focus of the piece is domestic: three ‘soldier rejects’ attempting to snatch away Penny’s beloved cinema.

The show begins from the moment we enter the theatre. We are treated to music while the cast energetically set up stage. Their improvisational ability is a testament to the strength of their character identities, and this preconditioning feels just as much a part of the show as the main event itself. The cast is full of immensely likable performers and every smile they give feels completely genuine. Lily de-la-Haye is particularly of note for her turn as the adorable Penny, filling her solos to the brim with emotion yet never seeming saccharine, an easy trap for a weaker actor.

The best elements of the show are the musical numbers. The choreography is creative, and there isn’t a dud song on their list. Inspired by the tunes of the time, the musical style complements the show magnificently. The singing itself is well executed (albeit with a few falters here and there), everyone is completely invested in what they are doing and the harmonies are pleasing. Not quite up to this standard are the sections between songs: being a devised piece, it seemed that nearly all of the energy had gone into the big set pieces with the connecting sections being afterthoughts. As such, some of the dialogue sounded contrived. This never mattered for very long, however, as whenever the speech began to grate, we would be treated to another glorious musical number.

What was confusing, though, was the motivation - or, rather, lack thereof - for the villains. After the initial joy of their quirky number faded, I couldn’t help but think ‘wait, what?’ Time should definitely have been taken to develop this, as it creates an uncomfortably large plot hole. I found out only after the performance that the show was a devised piece, so this is a phenomenal achievement by the cast and production team but a couple of changes to the script here and there would tighten up the act to no end. This does not take away from the fact that this is a thoroughly enjoyable show and not in the least bit pretentious. I still have the songs stuck in my head, and so will you.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

The Picture House is an innovative celebration of the golden musical theatre era of the 1940s. We've combined a tribute to the patriotism shown by the home front with a heartwarming love story about strength and hope.

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