What makes you happy? At 5 years old our character (Jack Hesketh) says sunflowers. He felt wrapped up in their warmth like a giant hug. But as he got older, his happiness deteriorated. Now in his 20s, he is struggling to accept he is now an adult, a ‘man’, and happiness couldn’t be further from his mind.
This dark, comedic, one man show by Jack Hesketh plays into the denial that men with depression and anxiety face, ignoring the weight inside, instead using comedy to shake off the grey feelings. Hesketh does a superb job in portraying this. With the use of over the top exaggerated movements for his morning routine to Electric Light Orchestra’s Mr Blue Sky, and his depiction of the ‘date from hell’ to name a few. With direction from Coral Tarran he successfully has the audience captivated and laughing as he leaps from one end of the stage to the other.
The black box space is dressed with a dimly lit, messy, bedsit style, leftover beer cans and unwashed clothes sprawled all over the floor. Hesketh and Tarran portray a strong sense of deterioration in mental health with both the character and the set. The repetition of his morning routine gets less and less enthusiastic, finally finishing with him ‘switching off’ the alarm and staying in his bed as we watch the bedsit get messier.
There is a loveable nature to Hesketh’s character. On the surface, he seems like a happy-go-lucky lad, but as the piece goes on, we see the cracks start to show. The intimacy of the small movements and gestures of the character are enchanting and heart breaking at the same time. The small crack of a smile, when reciting his childhood expedition to the 24hr Tesco is soon wiped away by the reality of adult life.
What this play also does very well is depict the effects of social media on depression and anxiety in a very ‘un-preachy’ way. In one scene, we see various intervals where the character can’t sleep so instead trawls through social media begging someone to reach out and ask if he is okay. The use of a single phone light helps to create a dark and painful atmosphere. However, at points lighting and sound cues could have been stronger and smoother, helping to maintain this atmosphere throughout, instead of sometimes hindering the performance.
A few moments are left untied and quite confusing to follow. At points Hesketh refers to a father character in the past tense via direct address looking towards a vase of sunflowers on the floor of his bedsit; his relationship to his father is briefly explained at the beginning of the piece but then isn’t mentioned again.
Amidst the dark thoughts of our character, there is a beautiful hopefulness towards the end. His acceptance that this feeling is always going to be there yet longing to be in control of his own brain by seeking help, is an uplifting end to this optimistic piece.
Written by: Jack Hesketh
Directed by: Coral Tarran
Produced by: Threedumb Theatre
Booking Link: https://www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com/whats-on#/event/am-i-happy-yet
Booking Until: 6 March 2020