Brighton Fringe 2014
Harry and Alice have invited the edgiest crowd south of the river to their housewarming, but will the pair’s love of showtunes be their undoing? Part house party, all musical , mostly great fun to see. House of Blakewell is tight, talented musical comedy with edge!
We’re welcomed in to this housewarming party in Peckham by our keen and rather shrill voiced Alice (Alice Keedwell) handing out cocktails to all and sundry. From her housemate Harry’s (Harry Blake) perspective she has all the makings of the hostess from hell, seemingly oblivious to the right social distinctions (she still talks about people going clubbing for God’s sake – who calls it that anymore?), always running to see if that builder guy is going to come to the party and sweep her off her feet. A bit sad really. Then she breaks into song and, and it’s like the Sound of Music all over again, but in Peckham. And not quite like the Sound of Music except for Alice’s soaring voice, and the fact we’re not in the Alps but in a small house party in the wrong part of South London.
And we’re at the party too, a bit edgy that this might be the wrong party after all, but then in comes Harry, and he’s no Julie Andrews sidekick, he’s the real thing, just been DJing at a drum and bass night, he’s going to put down some phat tunes later and he does not want to be reminded by Alice that he once wrote a fan letter to Elaine Page (who is Elaine Page? – I’m sort of glad I had to look her up on Google, but then I’m not a fan of musicals).
The party carries on – there are games, with gentle audience involvement. Sadly this involved my partner being the only person in the room to admit to sharing inspirational quotes on Facebook. You see it’s quite an edgy crowd (edginess is the concept of the night – Harry thinks he has it, Alice thinks we’ve all got it, Alice hasn’t got it, my partner hasn’t got it). The performance is well paced – Alice Keedwell as Alice straddles the edge of excruciating uncoolness with masterful precision – we might smile at her naivety, but we sympathise all the same. Harry is aloof, cynical, out to impress but not impressing, but with a vulnerability about him that is quite touching all the same. There is movement in this musical House Party, as well as nods to many musicals (my partner tipped me off on these as I hadn’t a clue – not that it mattered at all), and a delicately traced plot despite there being only two characters.
Being a musical there are plenty of songs, with great lyrics, hilarious interludes with recorders and clarinets, the obligatory sad song carried beautifully by Alice Keedwell’s voice; Harry’ Blake’s deadpan delivery is a great contrast and enjoyable in its own right, both protagonists’ songs are clear and sharp in the singing and the writing. Mid party/show we get a great drinking song, with a bottle of vodka and shot glasses handed round the audience. We get a roller skate queen, an exploration of vegan snacks in an urban party setting and much more.
The gradual development of Harry’s grumpy uber-cool persona riffs nicely off Alice’s enthusiasm, and the conceit of the audience all being party-goers was gently worn and nicely involving . The show’s meditation on what makes your heart sing or sink is lightly but skilfully developed as well, with a traditional heart-warming finale. House of Blakewell are entertaining and have a playful joyful presence that converted me, even as a non-fan of musicals and not getting any of the references. The show is on again 31 May / 1st June – and in the time honoured way of those who have favourite musicals I might just go and see it again.