A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) – Review – Junction, Goole
By Rachael Popow, October 2018
In theory, Silent Uproar’s performance of A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) at Junction, Goole started at 8pm. However, when we strolled in to take our seats at 7.50pm, we found the cast (three actors and a keyboard player) already in costume and on stage, singing along to a selection of hits by noughties female singer-songwriters and asking the arriving audience such eternal questions as ‘how much of the budget did we spend on double-sided sequins?’ and ‘whatever happened to Natasha Bedingfield’?
It was very entertaining, but it did leave me wondering just how much audience participation there would be in this ‘cabaret musical’ and if I would come to regret being seated so near the front. Luckily, I needn’t have worried. Once the show started in earnest (at 8pm, as advertised), it was the four people on stage who provided all the action, and the audience’s contribution was limited to a lot of laughing and some very audible sniffling, proving that A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) really does live up to its name.
“Frequently very funny”
Writer Jon Brittain’s show tackles the issue of depression through the story of Sally (played by the excellent Madeleine MacMahon). She knows something is wrong on her 16th birthday, which she spends dancing on stage with her favourite band, impressing the cool older boy she has a crush on into the bargain. It’s the greatest night of her life, so why does she have to force a smile for her best friend’s camera?
As Silent Uproar explain via a surprisingly upbeat song (the score is by Matthew Floyd Jones), there is often no reason behind depression, which can strike even when it seems like your life is going well. So Sally keeps trying to pretend everything is okay, until she can no longer force a smile – or go to college. Or get out of bed. At which point, her life stops going quite so well…
That may sound dark, and A Super Happy Story doesn’t shy away from the horrors of depression. But it’s also moving, frequently very funny and ultimately hopeful.
A lot of the light relief is provided by the other people in Sally’s life, all played by just two actors, Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland. If some of them initially appear to be a little two-dimensional, they later reveal hidden depths – it seems that even the geeky, Meat Loaf-loving boy next door that your mum forced you to be friends with can be a source of support, if you let him.
And that’s one of the key messages of A Super Happy Story – that there is help available and that there’s no shame in asking for it. That the show gets that message across using songs, jokes and sparkly top hats, without sacrificing its sensitivity, is what makes it so impressive.