Singing, dancing and sequins may not be the obvious choice for a show about depression; yet, that is exactly the sight that meets your eye when you enter the Changing House of the Tron to see Silent Uproar’s A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad). It’s a tonal anomaly that the cast sing and dance about in their first bouncy number as well, “sugar-coated, unrelenting” smiles fixed in place as they do. For a topic that so desperately needs to be discussed and understood though, the question of how well they could handle it lingered in the sparkle-laden air.
The follows the story of Sally McKenzie, played by Madeleine MacMahon who narrates throughout, from the night of her 16th birthday to her 26th, detailing the highs and lows along the way. She is supported by Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland, who play various roles throughout. In spite of this, the use of convention and gimmicks is fairly economic, allowing the story to speak for itself instead. Said story is one which reflects every side of depression; the bleak lowest points, the joys of starting to see yourself get better, and the fact that knowing you should be happy doesn’t always make that so.
MacMahon gives an intense sincerity to the performance. She has an almost childlike happiness at times, and when those smiles being to fade you can feel shivers run down your spine and your heart break. Though her singing does not necessarily fill the room, her choreography and energy are so strong that it barely matters, with songs like Things that Make You Feel Better and There’s No Reason having an almost Julie Andrews quality to them.
Clay and Yelland are also brilliant, shifting from role to role so smoothly that it’s easy to forget the show only has a cast of three (Clay’s nasal and efficient boss character proving a hilarious stand-out).
In some respects, A Super Happy Story is an educational cabaret. If you have experienced depression yourself, you can see your own emotions and challenges in the performance. If you haven’t, Sally’s story may help you to understand the illness better.