Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham
UNITY Theatre Commission and Tmesis Theatre brought this interesting piece of physical theatre to the stage of the Old Rep as part of their UK National Tour.
It has their trademark combination of physicality, humour and music telling a story of our society’s obsession with striving for happiness and success. The piece explores the idea behind the ‘happiness industry’ in which happiness is packaged up and sold to us in the form of self help materials and marketing. But can happiness really be bought? Can we really ‘learn’ to be happy?
Set in an office on level 3, the workers race against the clock to reach their daily quota of smiley faces, whilst ‘big brother’ on the top floor watches their every move and monitors just how happy they really are.
Success is rewarded by moving up a floor whilst failure could mean the basement. (This ‘climbing the ladder of success’ scenario is cleverly portrayed in an amazing routine with an actual ladder; physical theatre at its best and possibly most demanding.) The pressure and stress of trying to create happiness soon takes its toll and chaos breaks out on level 3!
There is an ingenious working set which creatively transforms to portray all aspects of the office. The four actors (Ian Cook, Adam Davies, Eleni Edipidi and Jennifer Essex) work in perfect synchronicity to bring an energetic, physical, dynamic and thought provoking performance. They are all equally strong in their roles with slick performances and remarkable choreography delivered at pace. They are indeed masters of their art form.
The creative team and actors have successfully produced a humour packed, sometimes dark look at how we perceive the pursuit of happiness. If you love physical theatre you will love this production.
See their website for tour dates and venues http://tmesistheatre.com
Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith