Note: This review is from the 2019 Fringe

Happy Hour is an incredibly acted, grotesquely comedic and brutal journey through a fascist, totalitarian landscape.

From the outset Silvia Gallerano and Stefano Cenci are mesmerising, twisting and gyrating spasmodically in the centre of a bare, square rostrum. The Stage Best Actress Award winner, Silvia Gallerano, as Aldo and Stefano Cenci as Kerfulle lead the audience on a queasy and uncertain journey through a strange and confusing landscape. The storytelling ability of the pair creates a stunning sense of visualisation that holds the audience captive.

The acting is utterly excellent as the pair weave through a cast of characters with a sense of childlike imitation laced with a dark, seedy and confronting underbelly of violence and sexuality. From acting out dance classes and chasing after lost footballs to describing their mother naked and orgasming in front of soldiers searching her home, the balance between surreal and mundane is expertly conducted.

The story is a convoluted one, with moments of repetition acting as a stark reminder of the fascist setting. Blending details of Italian everyday life: aperitifs, tanning lamps and football practice with mass deportations of the elderly, a makeshift prison in an abandoned aquarium and a concentration camp where captives are shaved and forced to dance and smile creates a fascinating and rich narrative. The plot is bolstered and given life by the performances of Gallerano and Cenci whose vicious, childish celebration as their landlord is deported, and casual, easy adoption of a new life filled with soldiers and violence make the narrative all the more horrifying and thought provoking.

The bare stage is excellently used. Part climbing frame, part prison, the bare square structure is an ideal site for the cast to crawl, jump, fall and dance on. The pink lighting and use of thumping EDM music during the concentration camp scenes create a psychedelic and sinister atmosphere which is a perfect contrast to the natural, bright light throughout the rest of the performance.

The play ends as it begins, with Cenci and Gallerano dancing in the centre of the square structure, but the audience leaves having been exposed to a haunting and provocative story brought to life by fantastic acting.

Happy Hour is ultimately a confronting, jarring and excellent piece of theatre which is staggeringly well performed.