‘A good way to be happy’, Alice Keedwell tells us, is ‘you’ve got to silence the critic inside your head for a moment or two’. As a reviewer, this is a difficult thing to do. Critiquing a show about happiness seems pedantic, barbaric even. And yet it has to be done, because if this show teaches us anything, it’s that all feelings are valid. Happiness and sadness. Laughter and anxiety. Living in the moment, and analysing every moment to death.
We Can Make You Happy offers practical philosophy for the BuzzFeed generation.
This emotional balance, reached by the end of the show, is not initially apparent. The stage is littered with rainbows, unicorns, garden gnomes, and oversized papier-mâché flowers in a parody of happiness. As audience members filter in, Keedwell hands out pieces of paper with ‘positive thoughts’ typed out on each one. Her honey tones lead a repertoire of memorable melodies, and her wide-eyed persona is convincingly maintained.
The pinch of salt in this sugary extravaganza is the second half of House of Blakewell, Harry Blake. As Keedwell beams at the audience, Blakewell plays the piano wearing a deadpan face – and a unicorn hat. Throughout musical numbers, tap-dancing, and a bit of spoken word, Blake maintains his sardonic expression and flat voice. For every happy statement from Keedwell, Blake injects a cutting comment (‘choice is an illusion’). His poetic ruminations avoid cliché, articulating feelings of love and misery using bizarre chemistry-based metaphors. He wishes he were a noble gas, because ‘then I wouldn’t need anyone.’
A meditation on happiness, loosely tied together by a romance plot, We Can Make You Happy offers practical philosophy for the BuzzFeed generation. House of Blakewell intersperse recorder solos and dance routines with quotes from philosophers Montaigne and Nietzsche in a highly entertaining cabaret. Did they make me happy? Yes. Thanks to House of Blakewell’s musical talent, infectious energy and verbal brilliance, the critic inside my head was thinking only happy thoughts.