“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” (Mahatma Gandhi). How To Make Me Happy is a piece of creative, alternative and playful theatre that deals with, as the title suggests, our methods and techniques for remaining happy in sticky situations. This concept has, quite literally, been taken by Hatch it Theatre who present their three performers stuck on stage – unable to move or communicate. Through a series of familiar games, improvisation and physical sequences, How To Make Me Happy attempts to connect the performers with their audience and create an overall reflection on oneself.
To create this dynamic of self-reflection and turning the performance onto the audience, the theatre company used a combination of immersive techniques in order for each audience member to participate in their games. The context of the piece was vague and at times referred to the three characters being in prisoned on stage, with a ‘voice from above’ occasionally speaking to them directly. This worked to an extent – giving the characters a feeling of being lost in a world that has external forces pushing down on them – but it became lost within the setting of the performance and needed more explanation in order for the audience to feel more comfortable with contributing to the piece.
Once the audience became more accustomed to their role as the fourth member of the show, they became much more willing and began to enjoy their level of involvement. At the very opening of the piece, the audience are given three coloured notes to write on and are commanded to do so from an external voice. The audience of course obliges, creating the first of many relationships between the viewer and the actor. The clever facial expressions
of the performers were hilarious, engaging and were an effective way to create the disparity between the three characters. Indeed the most effective moments in the piece came when the performers took to improvisation to act out what various members of the audience had written on their notes. Moreover the activities such as 21, ‘the sun shines on me when’ and even creating a rollercoaster out of the audience members were genuinely fun to be a part of and had the audience smiling throughout.
How To Make Me Happy is an interesting idea, delivered in a creative, fun, inclusive and imaginative way. The shows most successful moment was when the three actors were completely frozen, unable to move or speak, and had to communicate to an audience member with just their eyes that they needed someone to fill up their water and give it to them. If the piece had used more of these elements which asked the audience to figure out the situation for themselves, they would find the audience feeling more enlightened than satisfied with their relationship with happiness.
The real meaning of all these ideas presented by the company comes down to happiness. What is it that makes us happy and how do we use them to get ourselves unstuck from a difficult place or time. The analogy of the piece is made explicitly clear for the audience and is pieced together very nicely by the cast. The moments of scripted dialogue let the piece down and felt unnecessary at times. The pieces strengths lie in physical humour, commentary and suggestion – rather than delivering to the audience a message which they can decipher for themselves off the back of the activities. By giving the audience less of a clear idea behind each game, they would be required to unpick it themselves and perhaps find a different meaning behind what truly makes them happy.
Review by James Evans
In an experimental new play, Hatch It Theatre explores happiness and helplessness. Three people are stuck – physically. They cannot even speak to each other until they manage to convince an audience member to give them some water. Over the course of the play, the relationships between them develop as they cope with boredom, loneliness, and their own powerlessness. They discover that the best way to rise above their physical and mental constraints is not, as self-help culture might have you believe, to find inner strength within themselves, or to “think positive”. Instead, they decide to step into the shoes of other people, and see what brings them happiness. And by “other people”, we mean, the audience.
How To Make Me Happy
Performance Dates 30th-31st July 2018
Running Time 60 minutes
Location The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, 42-44 Gaisford St, London NW5 2ED
Writer/director: Emma Brand
Performers: Lexi Bradburn, Jack Gouldbourne, Charlotte Warner