Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Cabaret-duo House of Blakewell want to make you happy. They sing and dance their way through positive psychology, Greek philosophy and the 5:2 diet, but will they find what they are looking for? Featuring woodwind duels, dance-offs and original, toe-tapping showstoppers, this cabaret musical will make you feel slightly better about the world. Winner of the Craig Barbour Award, Soho Theatre.
Happiness is a choice. And by going to this show, you choose happiness. Alice (Alice Keedwell) makes it clear from the start: if you live in the moment, you’ll be free of worries. Her world is filled with rainbows, pink unicorns and flowers – and so is the stage. Harry (Harry Blake) on the other hand is heartbroken and struggling with life. Their happy-sad contrast might not be the most original idea, their execution is near-flawless.
He adopted, without much success, a “positive mental attitude” after she tried to cheer him up. He unwillingly plays along with her happiness showcase, but Harry is a complete pessimist, a part Blake plays convincingly. And that’s an enormous effort, because Keedwell is a true comical talent. When she improvises – and there’s a lot of room for that in this show – or pulls weird faces, Blake has to bite his tongue to keep his face straight.
There’s a real chemistry on stage between them, as comical duo they’ll have a great future. In this perfectly staged performance, they mercilessly demonstrate the shallowness of all the mottos that are used by those who claim you can be happy by focusing on your breath or enjoying the sensation of rain. They project an endless stream of well meaning phrases that people put up on social media (“If you stop chasing the wrong things, the right things will catch you”) behind them on screen, which made one member of the audience shamefully confess to her neighbour she shared that catchphrase once. Their big achievement is that they playfully make you think about the happiness industry and societies pressure to be happy all the time, without being moralising or pedantic.
They do so by putting on a delightfully silly show, with weird dances, sing-alongs and clever interaction with the audience. Both are multi-instrumentalists and their recorder battle is absurdly funny. The songs, written by Blake, are varied and most of all a very strong feature of the show. The lyrics are witty, the tunes catchy and hummable without ever getting boring. With a well constructed little plot twist at the end, there is only one way to exit the theatre when the show ends: happy.