This piece sort of snuck up on me. On one level it’s a funny, silly take on both the happiness industrial complex and the word of motivational Ted Talks. The show combines elements of lecture and crowd engagement that feel much like a seminar for the terminally unhappy – or possibly just those easily parted from their money and desperately seeking answers.
But as the show progresses, it becomes clear that all is not quite right with our host Joy. While superficially she exudes a certain increasingly robotic sense of forced happiness (she expounds the virtue of faking it until you make it) certain gestures and acts show that all is not right, not connected in Joy’s world. This continues even as we are taken through the steps to find our own – fake – happiness (up to and including MDMA smoothies – sadly not handed out on the night). But at last, the lecturer loses her words and we see Joy spiral out of control and beyond her sense of happiness.
Dodie Finamore’s performance as Joy is short – the whole show is under an hour – but manages to capture a true sense both of searching for a lost sense of happiness and equally that we have lost a sense of what this truly means. In a world of instant gratification, hyper-sexualisation and gross commercialisation, how do we remember to find pleasure in the simple things from which we have become so disconnected? How do we find ourselves and our own happiness? How do we forgive ourselves for not always being happy?
In such a short show, I found myself asking all these questions. Something is Happening does not provide answers and nor does it claim to – though it does examine the snake oil methods of those who do. It evokes and provokes rather than soothes. And in doing so, belies the superficiality of the initial presentation to offer a glimpse of something deeper – to ask questions that go beyond the text.
At times, the show felt a little undercooked. It had moments where it was disjointed and where the transition between formats could have been smoother. It had rough edges that were deliberate and others that simply need a little work. But overall the potential within the piece was clear to see.
Within the hour of the show, I had both a great big smile on my face and a lump in my throat. I left thinking deeply about my own sense of happiness and how I might be involved more or less in the happiness of others. Finemore’s gentle but relentless probing of the meaning of happiness was an hour that will last with me.