Review: A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) at Fruit, Hull

The title stated it outright, the blurb on the company’s various social media feeds screamed it, and the opening number spent three and a half minutes singing all about it – this is a super happy story! 

Happy, Happy, Happy 

The set was painted various bright colours, the pianist was playing Buble as we came in, and the costumes had a Sesame Street feel to them so I got it – Happy, Happy, Happy!

Now, I’m a no-nonsense northern man – when you tell me something I take it at face value. But when you hammer a point home to me with so much force, I start to question whether you’re telling me or trying to convince yourself.

Making light of a dark issue 

To my mind depression isn’t a light-hearted subject, so I was intrigued to see how Silent Uproar were going to make it something that, by its very nature, it isn’t.  

The show opened with the character of Sally (Lydia Larson) introducing herself and setting up her basic backstory. We were then introduced to the other actors; Michael Lyle as the embodiment of Sally’s self-esteem and Helen Reuben as her sense of perspective. A rolling cast, the actors were in demand to play several other characters that featured in this story. 

Like the set and costumes, the performances were happy and bright, setting the scene this was a happy central play. 

Perhaps focusing on too much of the happiness, I started feeling a tad itchy as things were slow to get moving and the comedy (with the exception of a couple of pithy observations from Perspective) did little more than raise a smile.  

Better observed and infinitely funnier 

Then finally, something happened, something that shouldn’t be the cause for rejoicing, but in this case gave the piece a corner to turn and the show an angle that worked – Sally hit rock bottom. The energy suddenly became more focused and lost its ‘forced-jolly’ children’s theatre feel, the comedy became darker, better observed and infinitely funnier and the score (arranged by Matthew Floyd Jones) got to its best number,  it was the one sung by Perspective commenting on Sally’s situation, a haunting ballad reminiscent of Jonathan Larson’s Rent.

From then on, the piece became a mixed bag, some sections working brilliantly, others reverting back to the Theatre In Education opening and missing the mark. 

There was a phrase used in the show that stuck with me; ‘I’m ok. I’m not good, but I’m not bad either, and when you have been bad you know that ok can actually be pretty amazing!’  With depression this is true, with theatre sadly it isn’t. 

Taking a step back

Perhaps this show is still a little confused about what it wants to be? Like Sally in the story, it needs to have a sit-down and recognise that it has a problem, but also see the good in itself and use that to build itself back up again. Hopefully it’ll realise that its strongest qualities aren’t what it originally thought they would be, and its sense of perspective will allow it to redirect its energy in a different direction. 

The show is going to be on at Fruit in Hull from 20-22 April, then the New Diorama Theatre in London from 24-25 April 2016.

For more information check out their website.