Writer: Fiona Coffey Cabaret
Reviewer: Simon Topping
It’s 1969 and the audience have all been invited to Honey’s Happening. It’s a chance to meet and converse with all types of people, to play some suburban, mid-twentieth century, party games and ultimately a place to come together and make the world a better place.
Greeted by our effusive and enthusiastic host upon entering the Brighton Komedia Studio, Harriet (later to declare herself as the eponymous Honey of the piece) hands out the classic party icon snack of the era: cheese and pineapple on sticks, which are satisfactorily devoured in great numbers, as guests find their seats. Honey’s daughter, Barbara, reluctantly lends a hand, dishing out drinks of “Hawaiian Surprise”. She appears to be here as a token, in order to appease her mother wishes.
Seated in a traverse manner, the action takes place in the middle of the audience and just in front of the stage. The maxims of the gathering (embroidered onto cushions) are: “Whoever comes are the right people” and “Whatever happens is meant to happen”. In this spirit of adventure, we are encouraged to mingle as we play a game where each member is given a sixties celebrity name to stick on their backs and enter the throng to talk about the celebrities and make new friends.
Through her intermingling, Barbara comes to the startling realisation that the gathering consists of people entirely from the future, people in 2019. She exclaims her finding to her mother and they enquire if we have world peace yet. It is a shock for the pair to hear we have not. Barbara, an air hostess, is a progressive woman of the sixties fighting for her rights and believes passionately in equality and freedom for all. Honey struggles with her place in the world and doesn’t quite understand her daughter’s generation.
More games come. Separated into Hip, Square or Way out there, the crowd enjoy group dance in an effort to heal the world divides. As the dancing continues it is evident there is a chasm between Honey and her offspring; an anguish. “Why can’t Barbara just settle down with a nice man?” our hostess bemoans.
Fiona Coffey as Honey is a riot; a hyper-real character of great charm and mischief. Her interactions with the crowd are playful and cheeky, akin to that of Caroline Aherne’s persona Mrs Merton. She insults with a smile and a glint in her eye. It’s a fabulous comedy creation.
Rhiannon Vivian as Barbara is also top class. n improv comedy veteran, she glides with ease through her audience participation and is very funny to boot.
The story that runs between the piece between two different generations of women is an engaging and tender one, nicely played by both Vivian and Coffey. As the play develops we really begin to care about the duo, their relationship and Honey’s acceptance of Barbara’s way of life.
As the piece continues the room is privy to the very comical and funny “rebirth” of a member of the gathering, are astounded by Honey’s buffet centrepiece and guided through a performance of a collaborative poem we have all created together.
Honey’s Happening is a wonderful immersive theatre experience, hilarious and tender, bonkers and thoughtful all in one. It is marvellously performed by two fabulous actors. Go and see it now.
Reviewed on 18 May 2019 | Image: Contributed