"It looks nice. A nice place to live," says Josh, looking around the empty stage in the heart of Summerhall's temporary Roundabout venue. "Let’s do this," partner Abbey agrees, which is fine—we’re used to Fringe dramas with little or no props and scenery to either set up or take down. On the other Hand We’re Happy has all the appearance of being a two-hander character piece, mixing pathos and comedy with real skill.
A succinct little drama that fits its running time almost perfectly.
But writer Daf James is happy to plant a few surprises on us, not least when both characters suddenly turn to the audience around them, inviting opinions and even taking a vote to help decide what they should do when it comes to adopting a child. It's not your typical interactive Choose Your Own Adventure theatre - James is still very much in charge, using the couple to warn us that "this is a story about love, but sometimes we have to go dark." That's sometimes almost literal; other times, we're talking much more emotionally. Despite the artificiality, we care.
Indeed, when Josh joyfully shouts out that he's been accepted by an adoption panel and will shortly become a dad, the audience are happy for him and applaud. Nothing, however, is simple. This is clear when it comes to meeting the mother who is committed to give away a child she nevertheless loves, in the hope that she will have a better life. There's some genuine fun from the unavoidable culture clash—him, a nervously comfortabe well off middle class man versus the working class "not backward at coming forward" Kelly, nevertheless determined to pull her life together.
With an excellent cast – Charlotte O’Leary, in particular, emotionally grounds Kelly when the character could have been little more than a cheap “chav” stereotype – this is a drama that works well. Although perhaps James could've avoided the temptation of retrospectively overlapping events in the characters' earlier lives which, frankly, raises the spectre of coincidence just too much. It's a small quibble, though, about an otherwise succinct little drama that fits its running time almost perfectly.