Brighton Fringe 2015
Alice and Harry have chosen to be happy. Alice has enrolled in an online mindfulness course. Harry has undertaken a comprehensive study of German existentialism. The pair sing and dance their way through positive psychology, Marxist economics and the 5:2 diet, but will the pressure to be constantly happy prove too much?
Featuring woodwind duels, sick beatz, tap-dancing and, of course, the duo’s signature brand of original, toe-tapping showstoppers, an exuberant cabaret musical about the joys, struggles and pressures of being alive
Alice welcomes you in with a absolutely beaming, over flowing smile and a comment and a little positive thought on a small flimsy piece of paper while Harry plays accompaniment on the electric piano, standing tall and stern and this sets up the comic opposition that House of Blakewell trill, trip and play with throughout the evening. Alice, just as in that House Party in Peckam last year (review here) lives just on the right side of overwhelmingly embarrassing positivity, her voice soaring at unexpected by completely apposite moments to remind you that she isn’t, really, a happy-clappy purveyor of the self help happiness industry but an astute and accomplished perfomer. Likewise Harry’s downbeat poem steers towards bathos, but manages a snarl to keep the audience on its toes. Riffing off one another (musical images just seem right for their performance), they drill into the happiness and mindfulness mindset with humour and songs that completely entertain. Their partnership, in both music, movement and song is well telegraphed and just funny in itself.
The positivity of self-help is mercilessly taken apart, and it is an easy target, but there is also thoughtfulness and compassion in their show – you emerge feeling uplifted – happier even! – because, although Alice can be nauseatingly positive, she’s a convincing character as well. The wedding song, where she celebrates that their celebration will be so non-commercial, sings of the rural nature of their marriage reception plans, continually undermines itself with great gags. Where House of Blakewell succeed so well is in treading this line between easy satire and real musical theatre, keeping the audience with them all the time – every number received enthusiastic applause because of their skill, their musicianship, but ultimately because they are such an engaging a pair of performers, surfing upright all the time on their many skills. To some extent this show mines the same area of human relations as did their last, but that is the mildest of criticisms, and the show is none the worse for working over again such a rich seam of comic and musical possibility.
I chatted to three of four members of the near sell-out audience as we left, because they had created a mood in which everyone did turn round to their inevitably smiling neighbour and speak to them – and the common theme was that people said, “ Well I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved it” My partner turned to the row behind and asked “Do you feel happier after this? “ and they replied “Yes, you know, we do, we do! ” So you could take their title seriously, you will certainly be entertained, you will likely come out happier- you can’t ask much more from a show.