Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Welcome to Honey’s Happening, a place bursting with the hope of tomorrow served with a side of pineapple surprise. It’s 1968, and Apollo has just landed on the moon, the Beatles are still together. It’s the era of the Vietnam war, counterculture and protest art. In the middle of this all, is our hostess, Honey Childs and her beloved daughter Barbara. Honey is hosting the first ever happening in her neighbourhood. Ever the optimist, she is determined for her shindig to be a big hit. Honey believes that she can bring about real change with parties like this. She will employ retro party games and cheese cubes in her mission of exchange to bring about world peace. In this immersive, dancing, joking and seriously fun soiree, Honey reveals the core of the show – acceptance. So have fun, have drinks and hold your neighbour’s hand. In the words of Honey Childs, “I think you are going to remember this day for the rest of our life.”
Honey is more than thrilled to be hosting her first Happening. Her daughter Barbara explains that happenings emerged with the hippie culture of the late 60’s. There is alcohol and other drugs, poetry, performance art, dancing, protest music, nudity and free love. It is a place occupied primarily by young people defying the rigid culture they’ve been born into. However, this is not exactly what Honey has in mind.
Honey Childs, formerly Harriet Childs, is casting off her old life. She’s adopted a new name in the hope of becoming more progressive, kind and carefree. Balancing controlling hostess and social butterfly, she’s invited anyone and everyone into her living room. With the warmth of a good family friend, she greets every audience-guest personally. Honey’s Happening is fundamentally political because it propagates radical kindness.
The first half of the show is largely concerned with party games. Honey and Barbara are both played by terrific actors who fully embody their roles with quirky habits and well-timed zingers. They energize the room and inspire a real sense of glee and surprise. However, the games themselves are poorly constructed and awkward. Social games are constructed mainly to break the ice and help people get to know each other; more thought could be placed on game choice. The audience was not fully focused on one task like a competition game nor learning about another person like a “getting to know you” game. This ambiguous space was simply less fun and less fulfilling.
This show reveals that the personal is political. Honey not only needs to welcome outsiders but those in her own family. She is challenged to understand, accept and love all the personalities in her life – whether that be the audience, her daughter or herself. There could be more development early on into the relationship between Honey and Barbara, whose comedic squabbles entertain, though they only hit one note. However as their relationship grows, so does the importance of this show.
The play attempts to revolutionize through kindness but its failing, like many shows, is in lack of nuance. We receive very little information about how to bring about world peace. In 2018, it takes more than a smile – it takes education (not necessarily academic), interaction and advocacy to claim political action of any sort.
Ultimately, this show is an extremely fun, immersive party. It‘s best summed up as a warm hug on a cold day. It may sometimes offer a simplistic message but simple truths can be extremely powerful. If you are looking to experience a little hope and a lot of love this is the perfect show for you.