Last Updated on 1 July 2021 by Showcall Editorial Team
Mark Ludmon reviews A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), presented via Stream.theatre by Silent Uproar and Seabright Productions
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)
Wilton’s Music Hall, London, online via Stream.theatre
In a glittering top hat and spangly jacket, Madeleine MacMahon opens A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) with a promise that this show really is going to be super happy – apart from the bits about depression. But of course, this show is all about depression so despite plenty of uplifting comedy and upbeat songs, it is a rollercoaster ride that regularly sinks to intense, emotional depths. In terms of being a “story about feeling super sad”, it is a triumph of storytelling, with a cast of three taking us through the experiences of a young woman learning to live with her depression.
As if confessing her own deeply personal story, Madeleine plays Sally McKenzie who, in her mid 20s, takes us through the ups and downs of the past decade. Going back to her teens, she relates how depression started to emerge, bringing key moments to life with Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland playing a cast of different characters. Through her commentary, Sally dispels many of the myths about depression while keeping the narrative lively and compelling. Yelland is particularly funny as her friend, Toby, who reveals depths of compassion beneath his Meat Loaf-loving geeky exterior. The cabaret-style form of the show is amplified by music and lyrics by Frisky & Mannish’s Matthew Floyd Jones, who accompanies the performance on the keyboard. With some great songs such as “You Can Never Get Away” and the toe-tapping opening number, it matches Sally’s own salvation through her love of music.
Written by Jon Brittain and directed by Alex Mitchell, A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) has won acclaim since its first outing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017 and, despite a delay due to Covid-19, is next due to head to New York City to be staged Off-Broadway. With glittering design by Amy Jane Cook, it is a show that retains much of its immediacy when watched online, especially as it has been filmed in front of a live audience at Wilton’s Music Hall in London and well directed and edited by Matthew Titterton. With movement direction by Jon Beney, it has irrepressible energy that contrasts with moments of intense stillness as Sally deals with the worst of her illness – all enhanced by Adam Foley’s lighting design. Like Matt Haig’s best-selling book, Reasons To Stay Alive, the show provides insights and solace, examining one experience of depression in an entertaining way that will be relatable for people with the disease and hopefully educational for others.