‘Our House’ is a jukebox musical based upon songs from the 80’s band ‘Madness’. It premiered in the West End in 2002, but had to close ten months later because the British public has no taste. Following 16-year old Joe Casey, we see his life, love and coming-of-age within a deeply troubled, but equally loving, London community. It tackles themes of class, gender and religion with realism and heart, to the background of such tunes as ‘Baggy Trousers’ and ‘It Must Be Love’. Underpinned with witty, intelligent writing, ‘Our House’ glitters with energy and life. It doesn’t have the polish and glam of other musicals, but it is unapologetically British, charming and real. In times of conflict and division, it is warm and inviting: the characters are likeable, and you can see the cast loved what they did. The whole thing is on YouTube, so give it a watch – it’s excellent.
Michel Tournier’s ‘The Erl-King’
Weird, profane, and uncomfortably euphoric, Michel Tournier’s ‘The Erl-King’ (also known as ‘The Ogre’, but I prefer the former title because of its Angela Carter-esque connotations), combines historical fiction with a forceful dose of magical realism. Set during WWII, it follows Abel, a French schoolboy, who grows up to become a physically grotesque man, at odds with his meek personality. He undertakes an arduous journey that transcends location, religion, and morality. We witness an increasingly blurred line between good and evil, and how the latter can very often be perceived as the former; there is something sickening about its contents, but it is undeniably a game-changer. The novel burrows under the surface of subjects such as the Nazi regime, and paedophilia, unravelling ideas of purity, insanity, and broken and bleeding humanity, to touch upon the interconnectedness that both binds and separates us, in a harrowing voyage bestowed upon one man.