Happy Now ? Review by Mike Aiken

It's the usual thing. A professional woman is getting pestered by a chancer at a conference. But Kitty is perfectly happy. She has a good husband, two children, and a cute house.

Michael, her audacious interlocutor, asks: 'Why don't men kiss their wives?' He knows all the patter.

She is not having any of this and folds her arms. But it seems to sow a seed of doubt in her.

From this point on, we follow her into the backwoods of the well constructed middle class life. Here is her husband, the dedicated teacher. There are the two kids who love their bedtime story. Her gay friend, with his wonderful partner from Thesaloniki, always offers a sympathetic ear. Then we meet her strange mother who never answers the phone. And there's the couple who make up a foursome at their delightful dinner parties but get a bit too drunk.

'Why is it that rich white people love eating foreign peasant food?'

'More wine anyone?'

It's important to keep up appearances. But, as the play proceeds, the surface happiness gets scrapped away until we see the desolation lurking beneath the surface in
each character. And that's when our letch turns up again.

'Happy Now?' is finely observed, deadly serious and hilariously funny. Claire Lewis has managed to direct this to keep those three tensions in constant dynamic balance. The play, written by Lucinda Coxon, only premiered ten years ago and remains contemporary. The contradictions and clichés are superb. And there are plenty of reversals in the plot. The script gives the seven strong cast a delicious opportunity to expound some cracking good roles which we can feel they enjoy. It's finely balanced and the actors nearly always maintain the tricky job of playing characters who are themselves actors within phoney lives.

Ian Black's sound design convinces us that there are two kids behind that partition and a cackling TV in the corner. Meanwhile, Michael Folkard's unfussy set, combined with Keith Dawson's lighting, means we can move rapidly between moods and locations without distracting scene changes.

The audience came bubbling down the stairs to the bar at the end. It left us with plenty of laughs. And a serious poke in the stomach too. More wine anyone?