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Review of Happy Birthday Without You Tricycle Theatre

Happy Birthday play with Sonia Jala
Happy Birthday Without You Sonia Jalay.
Photograph by Luke Pajak

Happy Birthday Without You focuses on the life and birthdays of Violet Fox who is billed as being an award winning live and visual spoken word vegan solo artist. Through an autobiographical account, it looks into the complicated life Violet had with her mother and the scars that this has left her without throughout the rest of her life.

The play itself was very interesting and awkwardly funny in most places. The concept was believable and the ideas flowed well together – for even though the story was not a linear account the links between sections were fluid and seemed well placed. My only concern with the plot is that while it explored Violet’s troublesome relationship with her mother and how damaging the lack of love can be, I didn’t feel that there was any deep and powerful message that could change the world. That aside it was a fun play and very enjoyable to watch.

As for Jalay herself, she was unbelievable! She managed to hold the audience for the entirety of the play (1hour and 10minutes) with her quirky acting, incredible voice and skilled ability in breaking down the fourth wall. Throughout the play there were musical interludes, which involved Jalay singing, and while some of these were accompanied the majority were not. This makes it even more impressive as she was pitch perfect throughout the whole show. In addition to this, she managed to pull off exceptionally convincing impersonations of actresses, such as Judy Garland and Julie Andrews, whilst still remaining in character as Violet. To me this was the most impressive part of Jalay; that she truly made the audience believe in the character of Violet and for the time that the play was on, Jalay was not herself, she was Violet Fox.

Finally, the set design was perfect for the play as it provided little hints to elements that would occur later on in the plot and/or reminders to what had already been told. I was impressed by the cleverness of it and it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into its design. The lighting and music were also very cleanly cut and fitted the play down to a ‘T’. Each piece of music that was used heightened the emotion that Jalay was demonstrating with her words or actions; it was comic, it was tense, it was brilliant. In a similar sense, the lighting added to these moments as well in a way that, unless you were specifically looking out for it, was subtle enough to manipulate your feelings without being noticed.

Overall, despite all the good technical points about the play the best bit of it for me was that it was weird, it was random, it was out there and for those reasons alone, I liked it.

4 stars

Review by Kat Caunter

Happy Birthday Without You by Sonia Jalay
Presented by Papermash Theatre Company
Directed by Ruby Thompson
Produced by Lise Bell
Starring Sonia Jalay as Violet Fox

Wed 21st January 2015 – Saturday 24th January 2015
Performances begin at 9.15pm
Age guidance: 18+

Running time: 1 hour 10 mins

Friday 23rd January 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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