The work is full of ideas – overflowing and full to the brim of concepts and moments that are extremely important and unpack the toxicity throughout much of society, but with so much crammed in, there is often little to hold onto or digest before the next idea is hurled out.
Ellen Grimshaw’s script is ambitious and surprising – playfully twisting language and structure and abandoning conventional narrative. There is a sincerity behind the writing, a knowing that these experiences, though heightened, have a very real lived base to them and are a matter of importance to Grimshaw.
However the script does at times feel a little chaotic for chaos sake – a feeling of trying too hard to be artistically quirky.
Sarah Vickery’s direction goes to great lengths to ground the work, while leaning into the absurdity of the narrative. Vickery fully understands the world unfolding on the stage and embraces the chaos while adding a touch of their own.
Vickery makes great use of the limitations of the space, bouncing the performers around the room like balls in a pinball machine – bashing them in and out of the vignettes, while incorporating multimedia elements to keep the performers and audience engaged and on their toes.
The pacing of the work does, however, fall flat – creating a whirlwind of fury on stage that can at times be maddening and leave the audience longing for a reprieve or a port in the storm.
The ensemble of Anjelica Angwin, Henry Kelly, Hannah Lagudah, Romaine McSweeny, Vivian Nguyen, Alexander Thew and Yuchen Wang are fantastic – shifting from character to character and moment to moment with lighting speed and the assured presence of seasoned performers.
Their energy never wavers and each performer works incredibly hard to serve the story and keep the work from derailing. The commitment to the work and to supporting each other through the chaos is extremely commendable and exciting to watch.
Bethany J Fellows design is impeccable, covering every last inch of the space and creating a maddening world of patterns and shapes. The design is gleefully full of surprises, layers and layers of detail allow pockets of gold to leap out and further colour the world the audience is thrust into.
The level of detail shines light on a creative who knows how to see through a whirlwind of ideas and find a solid rock to build a foundation on.
Gabe Bethune’s lighting works hard to illuminate the performers in a very limiting space though at times the lighting exacerbates the more disjointed areas of the narrative and further creates a distance between the audience and the work.
Ultimately We’re Probably Really Really Happy Right Now struggles to achieve its core intention, often becoming derailed under the weight of its own gravatas and the intent to seemingly create friction between the work and its audience.
We’re Probably Really Really Happy Right Now
Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Performance: Tuesday 2 March 2021
Season continues to 6 March 2021
Information and Bookings: www.theatreworks.org.au
Image: We’re Probably Really Really Happy Right Now – photo by Pia Johnson
Review: Gavin Roach