Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 8 March 2012

We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?)

BAC ⋄ 5th - 24th March 2012

Tale for an accelerated culture.

Lois Jeary

The phenomenon of the introspective, dissatisfied youth – a generation haunted by nostalgia, living under the threat of global catastrophe and yet utterly preoccupied by their own material existence and personal happiness – is as old as the hills. Yet We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?) brings those concerns bang up to date, as Made in China use the history of the 21st century to show how in a globalised world of mass information and interconnectedness we are perhaps more isolated than ever.

For all their protestations of being best friends, here with us where we can all be happy and have a really nice time, Jessica Latowicki and Chris Bailey are utterly alone. With their words tumbling over one another, like the trio of friends in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X they revert to memories and stories (almost certainly fabricated) in a futile attempt to connect with each other and avoid thinking about the world outside as it falls apart. Yet competitive suffering, personal jibes and a failure to empathise on this most personal level hint at the ways in which we destroy our closest relationships even in times of need, while the visual excess of beer trickling down their chins, ice cream melting over their hands and water wastefully dripping to the floor undermines any semblance of social conscience present in their recollections.

Jess and Chris claim to want to make us happy and pull fixed smiles and cutesy dance moves to that effect. However, as David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ races away with them it is clear that the automated, manic responses mask their own sadness rather than offering anything positive to others. Chris strikes an endearingly Ferris Bueller like figure, softly spoken and mildly hypochondriacal, while Jess’s eyes are absorbingly dead throughout, even as she wiggles her hips under pretty pink party lights to the folky and vaguely twee sentiments of the once progressive ‘If I Had a Hammer’. How numb we’ve become.

We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?) succeeds in showing how disaster is both immediate and intangible. As Jess trundles through a list of recent horrors she has seen it feels as though we were sharing in every second of that global nightmare. This is our media landscape: the fodder of rolling news, disaster appeals, high-octane charity galas. Sights of suffering are part of our shared consciousness and the placidity with which the audience receives this imagery becomes more disturbing than the events themselves. If the rest of the piece feels a bit self-indulgent as they pelt themselves with flour and bleed ketchup from their mouths, it is this realisation that hits strongest of all, compounded when Jess and Chris reflect the audience’s vacant munching of handfuls of popcorn right back at us. What it took Ontroerend Goed’s Audience an entire show and plenty of controversy to achieve, Made in China manage in five minutes and we feel suitably minute under their undead gaze.

In broaching the question whether it’s right to be happy when the world around you looks so shit, Made in China voice a concern that has graced many a bleeding, liberal heart – albeit one as self-absorbed, short-sighted and unhelpful as it’s possible to get. Yet they neither postulate nor preach, and such a thought-provoking piece as We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?) only works because it throws these issues up in the air and lets us decide what is going to stick.

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Lois Jeary

Lois holds an MA in Text and Performance, taught jointly between RADA and Birkbeck. In addition to directing and assistant directing for theatre, she also works as a freelance television news journalist for Reuters and has previously contributed to The Guardian.

We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?) Show Info


Produced by Made in China

Written by Tim Cowbury

Cast includes Jessica Latowicki and Chris Bailey

Link http://www.bac.org.uk/

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