Writer: Jon Brittain
Music: Matthew Floyd Jones
Director: Alex Mitchell
Even though most theatres are up and running, experimenting with social distancing and cast bubbles, there are still some excellent shows available online, such as Jon Brittain’s poignant cabaret musical about mental health and depression. While filmed in front of a live audience at London’s Wilton Music Hall, there are enough camera angles and close ups to make this a thrilling digital production.
Opening up with an old fashioned number, the three actors promise that the show will be a happy one, so happy it will be ‘like shiny happy people holding hands, but happier.’ Despite the song’s lightness and jaunty tones, it ends with Sally (played with great sensitivity by Madeleine MacMahon) affirming that the show actually will be about depression.
Sally is a normalish teenager, into music and live gigs. She has friends and although her mother has a hands-off approach to parenting, her home life is secure. But suddenly out of nowhere depression hits her and she is unable to get out of bed to sit her final college exams. She looks for a cause for this extreme shift in her mental health but as a jolly song explains ‘there is no reason’. And as friends disappear Sally realises that her depression didn’t come out of nowhere but had been gradually growing for some time.
She doesn’t want to admit that anything is wrong and rejects the help that her mother and her best friend Toby offer. Acknowledging that she has depression would be a sign of failure for her. Unfortunately for Sally, she needs to hit rock bottom before she agrees to seek help. In a very funny set-up, rock bottom for Sally is when she has to don a cuddly dog suit for her job as charity mugger. Although there are laughs here, Brittain’s show and the cast ensure that there is a sharp understanding of mental health problems, and nothing feels inappropriate, and importantly, it is never condescending.
MacMahon ‘s performance is inspiring, and at times it’s impossible not to believe that this is not her story, so keenly does she take on the role of Sally. Just as good and very adaptable are Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland, who play a whole range of roles and do so with equal amounts of humour and compassion. Together, with composer Matthew Floyd Jones on the keyboards, they really prove the title of the show true. This, indeed, is a super happy story about feeling super sad. Super.
Available here until 11 July 2021