IAN Dury was an inspiration.

He is still an inspiration.

A standing ovation on this opening night of a week-long run by the well-respected Graeae Theatre illustrates this fact.

Graeae really is a stand-out company who smash down barriers, challenge preconceptions and boldly place deaf and disabled artists centre stage.

They are multi-talented trail-blazers in artistic accessibility.

In this raucous and rousing Reasons to be cheerful at the Everyman Theatre, produced in association with the Belgrade Theatre Company, we are treated to a smashing musical drama full of surprises that bring the charismatic singer-songwriter's songs to maximum effect and a wider audience.

Dury, who died in 2000, was an artistic ‘everyman’, so where better to celebrate his work than the equally influential Everyman venue.

Graeae describe this touring production first performed in 2010 as a 'punk musical', yet it defies being pigeon-holed.

It's an anarchic musical superbly directed by Jenny Sealey.

It has a huge heart and conviction.

A rallying cry for equality.

Spasticus Autisticus is performed with such energy and drive cannot fail to move you.

Dury, a disability rights champion was a staunch supporter and patron of Graeae.

He would have been proud of their ongoing commitment and creativity.

At its core this production is a love story while at the same time making political points with some stunning graphics.

It opens in 1979 on a wonderful stage design from Liz Ascroft featuring The Red Lion pub, packed with nostalgic neon lights and some wacky props.

Ian Dury and The Blockheads are topping the charts while the Tories are in power.

Die-hard Dury fans Vinnie and his mates want to see the star at the Hammersmith Odeon – alas the gigs are sold out.

But there is hope on the horizon in this coming-of-age tale written by Paul Sirett with its earthy language, sparkling humour and tender moments accompanied by slides on a back projection screen which display Dury's lyrics, many profound like My old man and others just downright infectious and daft like Plaistow Patricia.

The greatest hits are performed by an excellent on-stage band and a team of actors who deserve the praise heaped upon them.

The songs mixed crisp lyrics with unforgettable melodies from Sex and drugs and rock and roll to the vaudevillian humour of Clever Trevor.

There's a sublime rendition of Sweet Gene Vincent and a new number especially written by The Blockheads called If it can't be right then it must be wrong.

This is a confident 14-strong ensemble with every single person contributing to its success on every front.

Stephen Lloyd's Vinnie is our narrator, cheeky and yet sensitive, while his supermarket co worker and mate Colin played by Stephen Collins shows a gift for visual comedy.

Vinnie's dad still holds a candle for Gene Vincent played by multi-tasking Gerard McDermott. And Karen Spicer's Pat is both endearing and scary.

John Kelly's vocals capture Dury's brilliantly.

Since 2010, Graeae have done two tours, played in Brazil, Mexico and also took part in London’s 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony.

Reasons to be cheerful is an extraordinary evening in the theatre where you are happily hit with a rhythm stick.

You are invited to laugh, sing-a-long and have your thoughts provoked while the ghost of Ian Dury grins in the wings.

Glorious - five stars 

It is at the Everyman Theatre until Saturday.

Tickets from the box office on 0151 709 4776.