Writers: Eugene O’Brien and Gavin Quinn
Directors: Aedin Cosgrove and Gavin Quinn
Reviewer: Laura Marriott
The Good House of Happiness is presented by Pan Pan Theatre Company at Smock Alley Theatre as a part of the 2017 Dublin Theatre Festival. The play is a modern retelling of Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechwan, a parable set in China between the World Wars. Where originally German actors played Chinese characters here we are introduced to three Chinese people – an actor, a singer and a scholar – and two Mongolian women – pole dancing accountants – who have gathered together in Dublin to put on a production of The Good House of Happiness with their expansive Limerick born director. This play within a play is an interesting narrative idea that draws the audience in and creates moments of humour throughout this intriguing production.
The play focuses on the journey of Ashley Xie who is desperate to work as an actor in Dublin. So much so that she has left her family and safe career behind to risk it all on this new life. This thread is excellently drawn out. Her story can be touching and profound as it can be light hearted and fiery. She embodies the key question that echoes throughout: is it possible to remain good and become successful? When one follows personal fulfilment is it inevitable that it will become harder and harder to fit back in at home as the gap between parent and child widens with each passing year.
There are some entertaining and insightful moments as the cultural differences between the actors’ birthplaces and Dublin are drawn out. Coloured lighting, music and song supplement the action. Mostly in English there are surtitles for some sections, with the differences between languages and understanding offering up comedy moments from the off. Ashley Xie is excellent throughout, supported and encouraged by the cohesive, well placed actors, singers and dancers that surprise the audience at times with their clarity and ability (look out for some rather impressive acrobatic displays in the plays opening act). It might have been better placed at the recent Fringe Festival however it is still a welcome addition to the Festival programme.
Runs until 15th October 2017 | Image: Contributed