Happy Dave

Bloody Happy Dave. I can’t lie, it sounds bad on paper: office boy reclaims the glory days as a DJ. He was good, he tells us. His raves were the greatest in England, or they were until the bilious Criminal Justice Act of 1994 that outlawed them.

close to excellent and insanely polished for a Fringe show

Cut to present day: Dave’s a Canary Wharf man in an ad agency. It’s no less a charisma industry, the ad game, but it’s ultimately not for him. Instead, he’ll band together the young and disenfranchised and give them something he thinks they’ve never had: happiness. Not garden happiness. He’s talking of happiness as freedom from worry. And you know what? You might feel that way by the play’s end.

It’s not an original structure. It’s basically The Wrestler with rave DJs, yet the vigour in the direction and performance gives it momentum. On occasion, it’s worth ignoring plot for other traits. Though some criticise Happy Dave as having an anti-millennial bent, one must remember that this is a character speaking, and not playwright Oli Forsyth; one must consider the context of why he’s saying it. Of course, more nuance in his message would be welcome, to probe more into the generational divide it spots.

Happy Dave is close to excellent, however, and insanely polished for a Fringe show. The company, Smoke and Oakum, have a cast of five, and together they rouse; they are nimble handlers of quick-fire dialogue and humour. It’s favourably comic when it wants to be too, letting you gloss over the plot, which is a tad protracted.

With some tweaking, this would be the perfect show for a London transfer. Zeitgeisty, angsty and joyful, Happy Dave is tragicomedy in Oscar-bait clothing, the kind of inspirational tale commonly nominated for Best Film. Andy McLeod as the eponymous ‘happy’ Dave will beguile you, thrill you, then leave you before ascending his rig to be the “messiah of a lost generation”. Just don’t take him too seriously. 

Reviews by Oliver Simmonds

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The Blurb

Dave used to be a DJ, and not just any DJ, he spent his 20s filling fields and dropping beats for thousands of young revellers flocking to the 90s rave scene. All good things must come to an end so now, aged 45, he finds himself working in an advertising firm selling things he hates. However, old habits die hard and soon Dave is leading a group of young millennials, disenchanted with the lot of Generation Y, back into the fray. Follow up to Smoke & Oakum's 2015 hit show Cornermen. 'Thrilling' **** (Scotsman). **** (Stage).