Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Are You Happy Now?
New Room Theatre (PBH Free Festival)
Kiwi Bar, Walkabout, Omni Centre
Dark play set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a railway station waiting room from which escape is seemingly impossible for those who enter.
We are in the stark setting of a railway station café cum waiting room. Two men are conversing. They are obviously in a relationship of some sort, but what sort and how robust? A moment passes. Now two different men are talking. They are also in a relationship but, again, what sort and is it pre-destined to end in failure?
The central premise of Are You Happy Now is the exploration of the imperfections inherent in all relationships. It just happens that both of the couples, convincingly portrayed by actors Mark Booth and Mark Jeary, are gay. We see that of the station café franchisee and station attendant move through the initial hedonism following their becoming a married couple, to that of starting to take each other for granted, through to the “men are from Mars and women from Venus” stage (and, yes, that happens in gay relationships as well!), where communication takes place in situations where neither has their emotional intelligence button activated.
Woven into this story is that of the other couple, one half dominant and controlling, the other with his life in pieces, addicted to the bottle and now without a house, wife or access to his children. This relationship is on a slippery slope as well.
But that’s the thing about relationships. If you don’t work at them, make time for each other, make sure that what you communicate to your partner is understood in the way you intended it to be, then you can find the skids under it before you realise what’s going on. Fail to read the situation and do something about it in time means that, inevitably, one side of the duet will take the initiative and move on. Relationship over.
Booth and Jeary are consummate performers, comfortable in their characters and are particularly convincing as a couple. The set is almost pure black and white, a suggestion perhaps about the nature of relationships – they are binary, either on or off but never really anything in between. And the claustrophobic feel of this depressing waiting room is perhaps another allegory for how one half of each couple in the piece feels about their current partner.
Ultimately the play is about loss and how we each have different ideas of what love actually is. Sam Wright has produced a nicely written and imaginatively directed piece of theatre which holds the attention and nicely illustrates the essential point he is trying to make.