12 April 2017
Happiness, happiness... the greatest gift that we possess?
Hello and welcome to the fourth issue of Noises Off! Our focus today is Celebration, which has won the hearts of a large swathe of festgogers, if the reviews here are a fair indication. Florence Bell describes it as one of the best shows she’s ever seen, while Alex Milledge enjoys the show on every level, from the visceral to the intellectual to just enjoying it for the sake of entertainment.
It’s a slippery thing, happiness. Try to analyse it, describe it or measure it, and you inevitably kill an essential part of it. Try to talk about it, and you end up stating the obvious. It’s nice to be happy. There’d be no conflict if everyone was happy. Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. Statements as banal as they are meaningless, even if they do reveal some part of an ultimate truth about us as humans.
Try to share your idea of happiness, and you’ll lose half the room. Everyone I’ve spoken to at the festival has been thrilled and excited to see so much new writing this year. To see students trying bold, technically innovative set design. Raging against an apathetic world. Coming to terms with the world-splitting anger of grief. Playing with form and notions of structure.
Not so Ghee Bowman, who in his provocation asks why students aren’t doing more of the classics. Why no Shakespeare, Ibsen or Pinter? he asks. Those are the things that make him happy. I’d imagine not everyone at the festival would agree. (If we won’t think of the dead white males, who will?!)
All of which demonstrates how difficult the task was that Emergency Chorus set themselves with Celebration, and how skilfully they managed it. They didn’t win everyone over, as Nathan Dunn talks about in his review, but they took something as subjective as happiness, thought about it and expressed it to us in a way that resonated from the moment it began. It was wonderful to share in it.
But it’s over, now. Happiness is a fleeting thing. Our brains can’t cope with it for long. Win the lottery, and after a couple of weeks you’ll find the same worries and concerns creeping back in. And how can we sustain our own happiness in the face of the suffering of others? We’re reminded of that suffering in No Human is Illegal and Say it Loud, reviewed here.
And we have a piece by Anna Follows, who describes how she lost her joy for theatre after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Her journey serves as a reminder of the challenges that we face in maintaining our own happiness, and also the importance of support, both from others and from within, so that we can rediscover joy.
You know you’ll be doing it right – when you’re dancing; everybody will be dancing when you’re doing it right.
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Photo credit: Giulia Delprato