Cristian Ceresoli’s Happy Hour is a remarkable piece of writing, delivering thought-provoking content that feels unnervingly close to home.
Happy Hour is anything ‘but’, bringing to life a tale of totalitarianism that hits unnervingly close to home. Two actors on stage, with nothing other than their own bodies, recount life under a rule that demands enthusiasm. A rule where executions are hilarious and mass deportations funny – to the frightening point you would almost like to see them. Over the course of 75 minutes, award-winning playwright Cristian Ceresoli and the actors Silvia Gallerano and Stefano Cenci depict a fictional world that is too similar to our past for comfort, and unfortunately possible in our future, but keep it estranged enough to evoke reflection.
Happy Hour displays remarkable playwriting skills, especially concerning the dramaturgy. The breaking of the ‘happy’ narrative ever so often – to remind of the victims skinned alive, and furthermore aided by the use of the same actors – serves to not only induce necessary alienation but also brings into question the so often cited oblivion of “passive” participants to dictatorial regimes. On the other hand, by relaying a story of children who, after a rather depraved childhood, move into a luxury house that was left behind by the deported, the show is also an insight into how changes in regimes can initially be presented as a positive. But what is the price paid and how long does this happiness last? The happy hour is full of unhappy, unfulfilled people (now living in a nicer house, pretending to be successful and happy) and the ghosts of those who were deported/had to die to free the house.
Despite some aspects – such the multiple masturbation jokes – not being my cup of (morning) tea, it’s impossible to deny that Happy Hour is worth your time for the thought-provoking content. On that point though, even though August is the time to see as many shows as possible for many, Happy Hour is not really suited to include in a ‘fringe binge’. Rather, it demands concentration – and requires some time for later reflection. A good play to see, when you can dedicate a full morning to processing it.