The show irredeemably lacks subtlety and specificity
Shows about depression are necessary to provide a voice for people too scared or upset to speak out and it is without doubt that this show really is very special for a lot of people who watch it. However, in the world of theatre, especially at the Fringe, there is now a plethora of beautiful, heartbreaking and valuable stories about depression available. With shows like Every Brilliant Thing and My Beautiful Black Dog telling similar stories with a far greater level of subtlety and grace, there is no need for A Super Happy Story to be rewarded simply for tackling the issue at all. Instead, there is now more opportunity than ever to dig into the issue with more depth, which makes it all the more disappointing that the show is so content with skimming the surface.
The performances, conversely, deserve any and all critical acclaim they receive for their enthusiasm. However, while it is thematically appropriate, they seem as though they are performing exclusively for children. All three actors are committed, lively performers who put their all into the show and inject the material with life and boundless energy. However, when these dedicated performances are combined with such simple material, the effect created is very reminiscent of a high school assembly. One can easily imagine being shuffled into a school hall to be lectured on ‘Why Depression Is Important’ and being presented with this exact production. Every scene is engaging, but they are also gratingly simplistic and predictable.
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is anchored by strong performances, and it is conceivable that this is a hugely educational show for some. However, the show irredeemably lacks subtlety and specificity. It is too cheerful, suggesting that, by criticising it, one is criticising the very notion of depression. A Super Happy Story works as an overview of the basics of what depression is, but it leaves those eager for more worrying that a deeper look into the subject has been intentionally avoided in order to make sure audiences are always left standing and cheering by the end of the hour.