Following critically-acclaimed performances at London’s Vaults Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, Silent Uproar’s production of A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is now available to stream online. Filmed in front of a live (and socially distanced) audience at Wilton’s Music Hall last month, this cabaret musical tackles the theme of depression head on and explores how it’s ok to not be ok.
Written by Jon Brittain (Rotterdam, Baby Reindeer and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho) and with music by Matthew Floyd Jones, A Super Happy Story is a compelling show about mental health. Sally (Madeleine MacMahon) is a 16 year old with promising prospects, many friends and a love for music. She wants to change the world and she’s happy – at least on the outside – but deep down she knows something isn’t right. As she spirals into depression her life is turned upside down, she drops out of college, her friends distance themselves from her and later she tries to take her own life.
Over the course of six chapters Sally tells the story of, in her own words, how everything ‘went to shit’. She talks about her experiences, dressing up as a dog for her job as a chugger, seeking help, and even a visit to Disneyland – the happiest place on earth (at least for some). There are plenty of amusing anecdotes and characters woven into the musical, but of course, deep down this is a serious story, and A Super Happy Story doesn’t shy away from dark moments, with Sally discussing her attempt to take her own life.
While perhaps a little uncomfortable for some to watch, Sally’s story is handled maturely and sensitively, and does an incredible job of raising awareness of depression. The show explores the stigma surrounding mental illness and the shame that some people feel. A Super Happy Story is like Sally in a way, happy on the outside with an underlying sadness. It certainly doesn’t gloss over the seriousness of depression, but there are plenty of light-hearted moments to lighten the mood. Floyd Jones (who also accompanies on keys) has created an impressive soundtrack with some memorable numbers like ‘There’s No Reason’, a bubbly song about depression, to take the edge off before things get too dark.
Madeleine MacMahon puts in a spellbinding performance as Sally, engaging the audience the instant she steps on stage. It’s no mean feat to switch from comedy to heartache in the blink of an eye, but she does so with ease. Throughout the show cast members Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland take on numerous roles, most notably Sally’s boss Karen, and her Meatloaf-loving friend Toby, who support her throughout her ups and downs. The pair do a great job of bringing to life the people Sally encounters, and do so with great enthusiasm and energy.
After the year we’ve all had with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is sure to strike a chord with many people and it provides a voice for those experiencing mental health issues. Above all A Super Happy Story is a musical with a message of hope at its heart, and shows that it is possible to find light even in the darkness. With a running time of 70 minutes the show is well-paced and fits a lot in to a short space of time. A realistic and touching portrayal of depression, and a thoroughly entertaining show, A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is certainly not to be missed.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is available to stream until 11 July.
Photo credit: Sam Taylor
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