Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Thought provoking take on life in an emerging band seeking that break which will propel them to fame and fortune – or at least a recording contract.
Four musicians on stage and there’s a certain frisson in the air to the point you could almost cut it with a knife, or power up their kit with the sparks being generated as they struggle to remember the opening riff of a song they’ve played countless times. The singer is also struggling to keep in time with instruments playing at different tempos and in seemingly random keys.
So it’s no surprise when the Happier Daze quartet implode with a volley of discordant invective, visibly struggling to deal with the loss of their drummer, Kyle, evidently the glue that held the band together as well as keeping them in time and in tune.
Will Evans thought provoking take on life in an emerging band explores the trials and tribulations affecting a lot of young people as the 21st century staggers along an increasingly uncertain path. Coping with grief, testing friendships, strained loyalties, moral dilemmas and, yes, even love feature in a plot laced with twists and turns that includes one-liners that manage to be witty, topical and cutting and sometimes all of the above. The play also sensitively explores how friendship and particularly music can be used as a coping mechanism for people dealing with grief and/or mental health challenges.
The staging is a garage acting as a rehearsal room where the band spend more time and energy arguing about what they should be doing and playing than actually doing it. It’s cleverly set, with syncopated/overlapping conversations creating a cacophony of sound on set, the tension rising and (occasionally) dipping as the quintet seek the luck/break that they just know will propel them to fame and fortune – well, at least get them a first recording contract. The original music slips seamlessly into the dialogue too, mixing upbeat rock with more poignant pieces of which Stevie Reilly’s “Please Don’t Go” was the pick of the bunch – appropriate both to the point in the play at which it is sung and moving in its delivery.
Reilly (who plays Fergus) composed most of the set list delivered by the band and clearly has considerable musical gifts, as a composer, guitarist and singer, possessing a strong and resonant voice. Will Evans (as Alex) was the quintet’s voice of reason with Niamh Mullen (as Lauren) and Eleanor Pendry (as Lily) delivering roles exploring grief and loyalty with both conviction and sincerity. Eilidh Barn as Charlie, sister of and replacement for the band’s drummer, completed the quintet, her character beautifully eccentric, wacky and at times just plain weird as she too explored her own way of dealing with her loss.
Director Grace Baker has pulled together an interesting, and at times uncompromising new piece of Scottish theatre which feels like it’s partly reflecting the real life experiences of those that are part of this project. The chaotic opening and poignant closing scenes particularly resonated.
The show is in the early stages of its full Fringe run but certainly has potential to develop from what is already a sound base although the balance between instruments and between instruments and vocalists could do with a bit of attention and a few of the lines get lost in the general hurly burly on stage. Consideration might also be given to some judicious editing as the piece lost a little momentum about two thirds of the way through.
You mind like to note that there’s also a lot of profanity (although it never becomes gratuitous) and there are a number of potentially distressing themes explored throughout the seventy minutes but, with it’s highly emotive start and blistering finale, it’s a good show that could be worth taking a look at.