Happier Daze

Aug 12 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Deeply felt

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sun 6 – Sat 26 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Happier Daze, from RIFF Theatre and New Celts at theSpace on the Mile, is an uneven production, with some problems in its staging but a great deal of heart.

The struggling but determined band of the title have been devastated by the death of drummer Kyle. The decision to replace him with his sister Charlie, whose drum kit consists of a laptop on an ironing board, does nothing to calm intra-band tension.

A scene from Happier Daze. Pic Iain Dale

The evocation of grief at Kyle’s loss is the strongest thing about the show by far. The difficulty of making the audience care about someone they never see is handled with real skill. The moments when the characters address him directly lose their impact by becoming formulaic, but the emotions on display are raw and affecting.

The portrait of the band is less effective. The arguments between them are half-hearted and seem like inconsequential teasing rather than genuine friction. The original songs themselves, coming over like Ed Sheeran crossed with early indie, can come across as unfinished and sentimental. Some of the playing verges on the apologetic; as a piece of gig-theatre, a genre which can have a real and visceral impact, this is lacking.

pace and contrast

The band’s story follows a predictable course, with the characters never quite fleshed out enough to make us invest in them – the departed Kyle is paradoxically more developed than those who actually appear. There is a flood of one-liners, not all of which land successfully. The play is described as “an original story by RIFF Theatre, written by Will Evans”, and a more coherent authorial voice may have been in order.

The cast do, however, succeed in making the piece live, with director Grace Baker shaping things into a whole with pace and contrast. Niamh Mullen’s bereft Lauren and Stevie Reilly’s bottled-up Fergus contrast well with Evans’s spiky Alex and Eleanor Pendry’s undervalued Lily. Eilidh Barn benefits from her character being given the most individuality (albeit of a rather off-the-peg kind of ‘kookiness’) and accordingly has the most impact.

Despite the drawbacks, there is a genuine emotion on display here that makes it impossible to dislike.

Running time: One hour and 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Sunday 6 – Saturday 26 August 2023 (even dates only)
Even dates only at 12.25 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

RIFF Theatre links

Company Facebook: @Riff Theatre Company

Instagram: @riff.theatre

Twitter: @RiffTheatre

The cast of Happier Daze. Pic Iain Dale



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