Smile (Like You’re Happy)

August 15, 2021 | By More

★★★☆☆      Diffuse

theSpace Triplex (Venue 38): Sat 7– Fri 27 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

Smile (Like You’re Happy), New Celts and Sparkle Sarcasm’s production at theSpace Triplex, deals with modern and timeless concerns in a way that is often too scattergun to succeed but has considerable emotional resonance.

Blue McElroy’s new play deals with the problems inherent in constructing an online identity. Kate is a would-be ‘influencer’, whose determination to build up a following begins to dominate her life and affect her relationship with the controlling Patrick.

Jess Ferrier, Robyn Reilly and Lex Boyce. Pic: Sparkle Sarcasm

There is much to admire in McElroy’s script, with the dialogue flowing admirably and often ringing true. However, there is a forgivable desire to do too much, and the divergence into issues about mental health, control and domestic violence means that it ends up spreading itself too thin. As a result, it ends up not saying anything profound about any of its concerns. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of promise in the script.

There is a certain diffidence in some of the performances that also counts against the production. Grace Baker’s direction is nuanced and subtle, but often too static, rarely overcoming the problems inherent in showing someone constantly filming themselves on a mobile phone.

emotional investment

Too much time is spent with characters sitting on the floor, which renders them invisible to large portions of the audience. Similarly, the dialogue is initially not as audible as it might be, taking some considerable time to warm up.

There is, however, enough emotional investment in the script and performances to shine through. There is a real vulnerability to Robyn Reilly’s Kate, meaning that her struggles engage the audience. Jess Ferrier, playing a projection of the persona Kate wants to create online, has the advantage of representing a character that is allowed to be larger than life, and the contrast with Reilly’s performance is highly effective.

John Whyte and Robyn Reilly. Pic: Sparkle Sarcasm

Kate’s boyfriend Patrick is an underwritten part, coming across as someone with no redeeming features whatsoever, but John Whyte invests the character with a troubling charisma.

The only other character is Patrick’s brother Grem, who also suffers from being less well-developed, but is played by Lex Joyce with an attractively hangdog and crumpled air.

All of the problems in this play could be solved with tighter focus and editing, as there is no doubt that its heart is in the right place.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
theSpace Triplex, The Prince Phillip Building, Hill Pl, EH8 9DP (venue 38)
Saturday 7 – Friday 27 August 2021 (odd dates only)
4.35 pm (odd dates only)

Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/smile-like-you-re-happy

Instagram: @sparklesarcasm

Facebook: @SparkleSarcasm

ENDS

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