University is the best time of your life, isn’t it? So what do you do when every day is a struggle? In
A slick, inventive delight filled with irresistible enthusiasm.
The seven-strong cast – eight-strong, if you include Alex John as the voice of the sentient, not-always-helpful self-help book that gives the show its title – has no weak link. James Porter portrays the troubled hero Danny with great honesty; his power for comedy is spot on, but he never sacrifices sincerity for it. The portrayal of Danny’s life is roughly divided into his life at University – his housemate (Ben Cammack), and a work partner and love interest (Lizzie Carpenter) – and his life at home with his family, the dynamics of which are totally believable. Danny’s mother (Hannah Bainbridge), his father (Jonty O’Callaghan), his younger brother Sebastian (Jamie Tomkinson) and his grown-up sister (Kat Forbes) present a colourful, poignant backdrop of loved ones to whom Danny is unable to reveal his anxiety. O’Callaghan is a most lovable absent-minded patriarch, while Porter and Forbes have a particularly endearing chemistry, and their ABBA-backed car journeys to University (ABBA Gold has been stuck in her car’s CD player for a while now) were some of my comic highlights.
Speaking of music, a large part of the show’s lifeblood is its sound and lighting, with a wide array of immersive soundtracks designed by Mark Fenton, from the sounds of football on television indicating the masculine fraternity between Danny and his housemate that prevents Danny from opening up, to soundscapes portraying crowded environments like nightclubs and cafes, and the anxiety attacks that accompany them for Danny. The cast all excel themselves in the frequent movements pieces, and credit must go to Vivi Bayliss for her choreography. The sequences presenting Danny’s journey between University and home show the smoothness and creativity of a professional company.
Seven Ways to Calm the Fuck Down is a slick, inventive delight filled with irresistible enthusiasm. By the end, I’ll confess to a pounding heart, a welling eye and a deep sense of identification. Bravo.