The Realness

13th November – 20th December 2014


owe awards OFFIE LOGOShortlisted for the 2014 Off West End award for Best New Musical… 

Book by Maureen Chadwick and David Watson / Music and Lyrics by Kath Gotts/From an idea by Maggie Norris

The Big House joined Big Broad Productions for their first co-production, The Realness, an urban musical about a young offender’s journey from zero to hero.

When some people won’t believe you’ve changed, and others don’t want to let you change, it isn’t easy to make a new start. Jay Johnson is fresh out of prison and determined never to go back inside, but for all his efforts to stay on track, he finds himself making a detour back in the wrong direction. Finally he’s faced with the hardest choice of his life and only then does he understand what he has to do to change things for real.

The Realness was developed through workshops at Only Connect and The Young Vic. It has an upbeat score ranging from rap to reggae, gospel to grime and featured a cast of care leavers and ex-offenders who performed alongside professional actors.

With an upbeat score ranging from rap to reggae, gospel to grime, The Realness features a cast of care leavers and ex-offenders performing alongside professional actors.

For more photos and information about the show, please click here.

“Within moments of sitting down at a recent performance of THE REALNESS, I had forgotten that most of the actors and singers on stage were non professionals, with very little or no previous stage experience. They sang, acted and danced their hearts out. They were funny and incredibly moving. And at the end , the audience stood up and gave them a well deserved ovation. Because they were that good. Go see it.” Lenny Henry CBE

“Director Maggie Norris’s staging – the show takes place in the round, with Mic Pool’s video design cleverly evoking each new setting – is never less than ambitious, and the 14-strong cast, a mix of professionals and Big House participants, bring a commitment and infectious energy to surpass many West End productions.” Laura Barnett, The Observer

“This new musical is buoyed by some excellent performances and demonstrates a company brimming with robust talent and passion.” Time Out

“A stimulating, vibrant show…hard to resist.” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide

“A well executed piece of musical theatre…catchy songs, defined characters, humour, and, most importantly of all, honesty.”
Rebecca Gordon, Musical Theatre Review

“Jay Johnson has been out of prison ten minutes when he hits trouble. He’s determined to change his life — but opportunities are scarce on his east London estate, and crime seems to be the only path to prosperity. It’s a familiar story, but in this new musical it’s delivered with heart, soul and a blistering sense of urgency. Directed by Maggie Norris of the Big House, a theatre company working with care leavers and ex-offenders, it’s performed with fierce commitment by a largely non-professional cast. The results are ragged, but thrillingly raw.

Colin Falconer’s striplit designs and Mic Pool’s two vast walls of video imagery brilliantly transform this concrete industrial space into a kaleidoscopic array of urban locations, from tower blocks to nightclubs and playgrounds. Youths on bikes weave among the action, looking for a fight to pick or a mobile phone to snatch; blinged-up gangsters glare and preen; babymothers propelling pushchairs ooze attitude. Maureen Chadwick and David Watson’s book is fast-talking, insolently witty and slang-studded, while Kath Gotts’s songs, ranging from hip-hop to R&B, reggae and gospel, have real punch.

The show is over long and the early scenes have a formulaic, blandly educative flavour. But as the plot darkens, so its grip intensifies as it unflinchingly depicts sexual exploitation, gun crime and drug dealing. A narcotics-fuelled sequence featuring Jay in an MTV rap video-style fantasy with a bevy of sexy, cocaine-smuggling airline stewardesses is undercut by scenes of casual abuse and violent tragedy.

Ashley Gayle is a warm, engaging Jay, with Jacqui Dubois affecting as his God-fearing, careworn mum, and eye-catching comic relief from KM Drew Boateng’s officious traffic warden. The undoubted star, though, is Veronique Andre, incendiary as Shanice, Jay’s tough-minded ex and the mother of his baby. And if it hits some potholes, the production blazes up its grimy streets powered by pure passion.” The Times

“The writing has an amazing freedom and candour. It shrinks from nothing. Jay’s mother is a born again matriarch who preaches Christianity but also beats her children till they bleed. You wouldn’t get a character like that at the Royal Court…

Everything here is dramatic, fresh and brutally gripping.  The songs are exceptionally good, a mixture of gospel tunes and soul ballads.” The Spectator 

“Across, the 14-strong cast, there is a live energy that crackles with the authenticity of life on the street.

There is comedy too. ‘Civil Enforcer’, the traffic warden’s anthem, is proof that Kath Gotts’ music and lyrics can blend rap, humour and street life with great affection

There are a host of excellent supporting performances and the production values are disarmingly high.” 
Hackney Citizen Review

Production Photos Collage


Book by Maureen Chadwick & David Watson
Music & Lyrics by Kath Gotts
From an idea by Maggie Norris

Dymond Allen   –   Leroy
Veronique Andre   –   Shanice
Aaron Russell Andrews   –   Lye / Churchgoer / Traffic Warden 
Serael Asphall   –   Rox / Churchgoer / Traffic Warden / Flight Attendant / Prison Officer
Mensah Bediako   –   Pastor Hovis
KM Drew Boateng   –   Obi the Traffic Warden / Churchgoer / Leroy’s Accountant
Andrew Brown   –   Mikey
Iona Dawkins   –   Prison Officer / Churchgoer
Jacqui Dubois   –   Adele
Ashley Gayle   –   Jay Johnson
Jasmine Jobson   –   Marie / Churchgoer / Traffic Warden / Flight Attendant
Tyrone Nestor   –   Duane / Churchgoer / Traffic Warden
Kyrae Patterson   –   Tenisha / Churchgoer / Traffic Warden / Flight Attendant
Matthew Schmolle   –  Prison Officer Stirling / Churchgoer / Bodyguard / Estate Agent

Director  –  Maggie Norris
Choreographer  –  Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
Set & Costume Designer  –  Colin Falconer
Video Design  –  Mic Pool
Lighting Designer  –  Joshua Carr
Sound Designer  –  Ed Clarke
Assistant Choreographer – Freya Sands
Assistant Directors  –  Laurence Cook and Georgia Rae Duke
Fight Director  –  Brice Stratford

Musical Director / Keyboard  –  Michael Henry
Assistant Musical Director / Bass –  Joseph Roberts
Music Track Production  –  Semothy Jones
Ableton Programming  –  Charlie Allen
Sound No 1  –  Thomas Wasley
Sound No 2  –  Rebekah Evans

Producer  –  Samuel Julyan
Production Management  –  Ian Moore
Deputy Stage Manager  –  Katie Thackeray
Assistant Stage Manager  –  Mimi Palmer Johnston
Costume Supervisor – Rosy Emmerich
Associate Lighting Designer-  Peter Small
Chief Electrician  –  Laurence Russell

Press Representation  –  Katherine Camps for Bright Media
Marketing Support  –  Team Boom @
Marketing Design  –  Rich Jackson
Marketing Image Photography   –  Caroline Coleman
Rehearsal & Production Photography – Catherine Ashmore

For Big Broad Productions
Executive Producer   –  Douglas McJannet

Big Broad

The Realness Leroy

For rehearsal photos and more information click here:

Rehearsal pics