Traverse Theatre – Traverse 2
It’s not often you walk into an auditorium to be greeted by two actors dressed as penguins. When you do, it’s possible that the next hour – or however long the performance you’re about to watch is – will hold moments of playfulness. Sure, Tabby Lamb’s Happy Meal does, but it also offers so much more.
Beginning in the days of MySpace and MSN, Happy Meal follows two teens from adolescence to adulthood as they discover themselves, one another, and the joys of being transgender. Online, we meet Bette (Allie Daniel) and Alex (Sam Crerar), who get to know each other through various social media platforms as they grow up – beginning with the iconic Club Penguin (hence the outfits). We watch them largely through a digital lens, until they grow older and eventually meet in the ‘real world’.
Through their social media profiles and conversations, we get to know the pair and develop a connection to them. Both characters are convincing; full of life and depth. As their relationship develops, we experience various moments of tension, caused by technical issues and individual characters’ own decisions and insecurities. Both Daniel and Crerar are excellent performers, revealing Bette and Alex’s stories and revelations with candour. Crerar’s natural movements deftly symbolise Alex’s moments of comfort and discomfort, and Daniel’s use of voice brings an engaging and delightful theatricality to the play’s more stylised moments.
A huge strength of the performance is its vivid and bold aesthetic. Ben Stones’ set comprises two large metal structures that signify chat boxes – online spaces that each character cultivates for themself. Colourful video projections (by Daniel Denton) illuminate these, uniquely representing and characterising them whilst clueing the audience in as time passes and social media trends evolve. The design of these projections, along with the actors’ interactions with the set, cleverly complements the text, which explores how online spaces can be safe and wholesome, creating strong communities. This is a vital narrative sometimes neglected by theatre, or any form, that explores social media.
Alongside the videos and set that build these internet spaces, there are glimpses of stylised movement which, whilst somewhat effective, would be more successful if used more consistently throughout the performance.
Happy Meal is a celebratory trans love story, beautifully performed, and enthusiastically received at Edinburgh Fringe’s Traverse 2. It was a joy to see the celebration of a queer romance onstage, and to hear as that story resonated in the applause of members of the audience.
Written by: Tabby Lamb
Directed by: Jamie Fletcher
Dramaturgy by: Jennifer Bakst
Set and Costume by: Ben Stones
Lighting by: Keiron Johnson
Sound by: Eliyana Evans
Video by: Daniel Denton
Produced by: Steven Atkinson on behalf of A Roots and Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production In association with ETT and Oxford Playhouse
Happy Meal plays at Trverse Theatre for EdFringe 2022 until 28 August. Bookings and further information can be found here.
Following Edinburgh, the show will be travelling to York, Plymouth, Oxford and Coventry during September. Full details here.