"How to be Happy" at Orange Tree Theatre

A thought provoking performance of a well-crafted play

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How to be Happy
Written and Directed by David Lewis
Richmond Orange Tree Theatre
5th Oct – 5th Nov 2011

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I must admit that I went to see this show, hoping against all hope that someone would show me the secret of how to be happy. I enjoyed the play immensely. The play is exceptionally well written and the actors gave a superb performance to make it a very enjoyable evening.

Paul Kemp plays Paul, a once upon a time happiness guru, who is now not so happy and trying to be a writer as opposed to writing advertising blurb. He is married to Katy, played by Carolyn Backhouse and his ex-wife Emma, played by Kate Miles, is married to Graham, played by Steven Elder who works in advertising and has an interest, verging on fetish, on how the brain works when being stimulated. They have a mutual interest in a daughter, Daisy, played by Kate Lamb and also a common interest in sofas. Paul is far from happy as he has been diagnosed with cancer and thinks he is dying. The others are also far from happy as they have their own problems of life, such as sex, birthdays and a preoccupation with how the other half of the grouping live.

This is a very cleverly constructed play. The sofa is all important as it is common to both lounges, central on stage and about which the all the action is centred.

Right from the start conversations intermingle across the separate groups.
Questions are asked and answered and then answered again by different
people in different places. This I really enjoyed and it gave the dialogue an
interesting depth. It also demonstrated the skill levels of the actors and
their concentration skills as they reacted to their relative conversations.

Now what is the secret of how to be happy. ‘Failure is more common
than success’, ‘The world does not oblige’ and ‘Whatever you do, many
will dislike you’ are aphorisms that are used in the play, they strike a
very common sense view of life which is certainly not very optimistic.
But they do seem to true when I asked about the office! Somehow we
all seem to spend much of our live seeking some kind of happiness,
searching for a better job, normally just different. Trying to change our
lifestyle so that we are fitter, more active or more desirable in some way,
in order to feel different or better or to be more attractive. More often
than not, we fail, and worse continue to expend our energies seeking.
If only we could learn the real secret, to get the things you want, then
want the things you have. This play spends most of its time getting the
audience to accept that truism and all the time the characters ignore their
own advice. More often than not, so do most of us.

So I really did enjoy this play, it is very well written, directed and acted. I
found it very thought provoking and does contain a lot of very interesting
ideas. Yet another sublime success for the Orange Tree where success is
more common than failure and where whatever they do, many like the
things they do. Now if we can only make the powers in the world oblige.

Evan Rule

October 14, 2011