at Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday 21st November 2012
A woman sits on a podium as we enter the theatre. She waves meakly at us. As the lights go down, a man walks into the space, and stands on the floor a few metres away. Everyone else, it transpires, has gone out to “get wasted”. Jessica Latowicki and Chris Bailey don’t fancy that, however. Instead, they’re going to stay here and tell us stories. Whilst getting wasted.
We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?) is a tough piece to write about. Broadly, it centres on the subject of depression and happiness (though it is never really discussed explicitly), but within fifty minutes we are also made to think about memory, friendship, performance and storytelling. This plethora of ideas is both the piece’s greatest strength and it’s biggest weakness, for I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few days but find it hard to keep my brain focussed when digesting it (though I’m quite happy to admit this is just a failure of the imagination on my part).
At its heart, We Hope That You’re Happy is just two young adults telling stories about their lives and their relationship with one another. They seem to have known each other for a long time, and for a good while it’s easy to believe everything they say – after all, we have no reason to doubt. Later, however, doubt creeps in, as Latowicki tells us not to believe Bailey “if he says we slept together”, and, more importantly, that they experienced some of the big news stories of the twentieth century first hand. Who are these people? Time travellers? Octogenarians? Compulsive liers?
Punctuating the stories are some rather wonderful ‘dance’ sequences, as the pair peform a rather basic, childish dance to Bowie’s Rebel Rebel which gets faster with each successive play. They also manage to down three cans of beer throughout the show and cover themselves with water, flower and ketchup. The text, with its mentions of unhappiness and breakdowns, is complemented gloriously by these visual metaphors of collapsing in on oneself – though the process the actors undergo is rather comical, the end result is nothing short of tragic.
I have a few questions of the nihilism of the piece; I left the auditorium feeling like I had just been told life wasn’t worth living and that nothing can be believed, and it’s difficult to tell whether this was due to the text itself or the consciously-employed self-indulgent tone. Though the title contains two mentions of the word “we”, the show does feel too individualistic for my liking, and – in some respects – seems to chastise those with depression rather than attempting to understand its roots and potential solutions.
The tw performers (who also devised the piece) work wonderfully together, managing to create an emotional bond even though they never touch or directly interact with one another. By the end, they are wet, dirty and drunk, and seem to go through a wide range of emotions on behalf of the audience. Though there is a slight deficit in clarity, the overall anarchic feel of the piece manages to make a strong point on its own; that we need to talk and work together if we want to even get a chance of being happy.