Directed by Robert Shaw
Pros: This play has it all: comedy, drama, ups and downs. It will have you laughing at one moment and in tears the next. It is impossible to be bored.
Cons: It takes a while to really understand the whys and hows of the characters. Until the pieces fall into place it feels a bit hard to let the play sink in.
Our Verdict: A completely different theatrical experience with multiple innovative elements. The staging is cozy and familiar making the audience part of every scene in a very intimate way.
It’s Australian New Year; two men are lying on beds with beauty masks covering their faces. A new year, a new skin. In storms a sexy bombshell of an Australian, who accuses one of them of infidelity. What is going on?
She begins a soliloquy, pacing up and down the sparse stage. The beds look incredibly uncomfortable and the two men look almost out of place: they whisper into each other’s ears and there’s a profound closeness between them. The woman, Pru – played by gorgeous blonde Lisa Dillon – rages up and down saying how one of the two men, Danny, will never find anyone like her. He had mentioned at the beginning of the scene how monogamy was one of his New Year resolutions.
The two men are brothers; Danny and Lyle. A traumatic childhood experience has enveloped them in a unique, unbreakable sibling bond. It transpires that they were thrown into a chicken pen when they were younger. For months they lived surrounded by the birds, creating their own little reality and family with the feathery animals, shaping themselves to be one of them, merging with the walls of the new world they were thrust into. As adults, Danny and Lyle still remember how it felt, they have every memory of survival branded into them including the moment they realized the only way to make it was to eat their faithful bird companions.
William Troughton and Joel Samuels give outstanding performances as the two brothers. They tint Danny and Lyle with random outbursts of chicken anger (!): there’s even clucking and flapping of wings around the stage. As Lyle, Joel Samuels especially shows fragments of the chicken trapped inside him: he jumps on tables, stands on one leg and this inner chicken takes over in stressful situations like the moment shared with Pru over a kiss. It’s almost as if it is the human facade he has to work to maintain.
The structure of the play is fantastic. It starts with the New Year and all its sense of possibility about what is to come. What then develops before you are all the possibilities for these two men, and yet somehow their past gets in the way, forcing them back to dreaming about their Happy New life. After all, as the joke goes: chickens don’t like people, they beat eggs.
New changes, new beginnings, a new start for Danny and Lyle. Will they be happy ones? Happy New is a hands-on experience into a similar scenario to The Truman Show. It seems to reinvent the concept of theatre audience in very sapid way, submitting control onto the viewers of everything that is going on through the play. The stage and setting are small, with seats arranged circularly creating intimacy, just the way you’ll expect from the comfort of your own house, watching TV with friends.
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Happy New runs at Trafalgar Studios until 29th June 2013.