A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is about a woman’s struggle with depression, told through a simple, storytelling format and soundtracked by original music from Frisky and Mannish’s usually excellent Matthew Floyd Jones. The story is important, but early on it, tellingly, attempts to get out of obvious comparisons. The show’s protagonist, Sally, explains directly to the audience that she has “heard of depression before” and cites “very special episodes of Eastenders” as an example. A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) feels like the ultimate very special episode: sickly sweet and sentimental.

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.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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The Blurb

A fun, silly and sad show for anyone whose brain isn't always on their side. Sally's a happy person. She doesn't let little things get her down and almost never cries. But she's got an illness. It makes her feel like she isn't the person she wants to be... But she doesn't want anyone to know about it. Written by Jon Brittain (Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho) with music by Matthew Floyd Jones (Frisky and Mannish), the show mixes storytelling, live music and sketch comedy. 'Suddenly grips your heart' (Lyn Gardner, Guardian).