How To be Amazingly Happy

Wed 1st – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 08:39 on 6th Aug 2018

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What would you do if you couldn’t have kids of your own? How would you feel? Amazingly happy? Perhaps not.

Victoria is on a quest for happiness. Wait, no – she’s on a quest for belonging, identity, and/or purpose, or just all of the above. Victoria doesn’t quite know yet. You see Victoria is a lesbian, which is great, she has a girlfriend and a steady job and life is generally good; Victoria just doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she’s 46 and confronting a future of childlessness.

How To Be Amazingly Happy! unpacks what comes to mind when people realise that they will never have kids. Like any tough Yorkshire lass Victoria stays bright and optimistic, but deep within her there exists a void that neither baking nor tap dancing can fill.

Victoria performs with passion and soul but in a raw and honest way. The play is marginally inaccessible to youths whose lives are so far removed from the difficult reality of childlessness, but that is precisely the point. Nearly four million people have trouble conceiving, forty seven thousand women are currently receiving IVF and seventy per cent of treatment fails, yet for those of us who haven’t yet reached the point in life when one starts to prepare for child rearing, these people’s struggles are rarely spared a second thought. Victoria’s performance does occasionally cross the line between acting and farce, however her bubbly enthusiasm for the countless little pursuits that she throws herself into in her attempt to add purpose to her life is endearing. I expect we are all familiar with the phenomenon of spending a fortune on running gear and tap dancing shoes only to jog a mile and discover that agility and coordination are attributes that will probably never be ascribable to us. Well, Victoria may be the epitome of a middle aged woman with all the gear but no bloody idea, but there is a distinctive charm about her performance, and a whole lot of originality.

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Ed Strang

at 09:37 on 6th Aug 2018

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‘How To be Amazingly Happy’, the brainchild of Yorkshire comedienne and Fringe virgin Victoria Firth, is, ‘Amazingly’, a sarcastic title. The show is superficially an insight into her restless life, documenting her shifting interests that range from baking to tap dancing to cabaret. It is, in essence, a one-woman comedy routine.

However, there is a far darker narrative that pervades throughout. Victoria provides her own voiceover in the silences that span the various periods of her life, documenting her insecurities about fertility that underpin her each and every action. The result is a delicately balanced anecdote that eloquently portrays a woman desperately trying to escape her own insecurities.

The most shocking moment of the performance comes when the voiceover explains how, ever since being told she can’t conceive a child naturally, Victoria has fantasised about being fisted - “to push my body to every conceivable limit”. This, bookended by her singing her ‘dog song’ and wearing a clown nose, creates a juxtaposition so jarring that one cannot help but feel like they misheard. It also alludes to the intense pressure she feels to exercise her body’s capabilities, a luxury she has been deprived of.

This highly autobiographical production perfectly reflects her own struggle to escape herself, while the more meta aspects of her performance - she refers to ‘going to Edinburgh’ to dismiss her lethargy - lead you to question what is real and what is not. The end product is a show that feels less like a performance than reality, with the voiceover providing the real narrative ‘truth’ of her life and her acting just that - an act.

That said, not every aspect of the show is handled with equal deftness. The stage cards that are used throughout are superfluous and feel at times as though thy are stagnating an otherwise frenetic show. Victoria too is at times irritating, yet always funny. Without the personal insight that undercuts this show it would feel like an average comedic performance, but the fine mixture of humour and horror means that the audience is left shocked, amused, baffled, and constantly entertained.

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