A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

Thu 17th – Mon 28th August 2017


Katrina Gaffney

at 08:58 on 23rd Aug 2017



I don’t know if anything I write can fully do justice to the brilliance of A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) but I will certainly give it a go. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at the venue for this show, how exactly do you pull off a cabaret musical about depression? There were so many ways that it could go wrong, and yet, the writer, Jon Brittain, avoided all potential pit-falls to produce a show which was open and honest about depression. A show which had me in tears - both of laughter and sadness.

Broken down into various chapters, the show follows the life of Sally; the first chapter we see is ‘The Best Night of My Life’ - an interesting place to start in a show about depression. Sally’s life is going well; she's excelling in school and has great friends and yet she can’t shake this feeling something is wrong. We see that depression is not a matter of circumstance but comes from within. At this point the audience is treated to one of the shows many fine musical numbers, which explains that there is no reason for depression aside from a chemical imbalance, it can’t be explained by diet or exercise or attitude or anything else for that matter. This is the first of several important points that the show makes about depression.

The narrative does not over-simplify what is a complex illness. There are numerous snapshots of Sally’s life, from crying in a alley whilst dressed in a dog onesie to drinking margaritas at Disneyland; the audience is shown that living with depression is not just a matter of linear progress to a complete recovery.

Madeline MacMahon was nothing short of fantastic as Sally. Her portrayal felt very naturalistic, the character was likeable, at times even charming, and yet MacMahon does not shy away from the effects of Sally’s depression. The scene where Sally attempts suicide was so incredibly intense, I felt physically tight in my chest and tears formed in my eyes as I watched this heart-wrenching moment. You may be thinking I’m being a little hyperbolic but I can honestly say I have never felt such strong emotions watching a piece of theatre.

MacMahon was complimented by the other performers, Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland. Both took on a variety of different roles as different characters in Sally’s life and they played their parts brilliantly. This trio worked together seamlessly on stage to deliver all aspects of the show, from the upbeat musical numbers to the more difficult, emotional scenes.

A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is an important show: there was so much for the audience to learn about what it is like to live with depression. This production encompassed a whole range of human experiences in a way which simultaneously outgoing and sincere. I think this is a show which will stay with me long after I have left the Fringe.


Helena Snider

at 09:58 on 23rd Aug 2017



Positivity is an integral part of 'A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)', one of the most uplifting show about depression. The musical presents the horror of mental illness, yet manages to display a message of hope.

There are three main actors onstage throughout (and a keyboard man, who occasionally participates). Sally is certain she is going to change the world but on her 16th birthday she senses a feeling of despair. She promptly drops out of school and fails to take her A-levels. Soon, her dreams of changing the world are shattered shen becomes a charity fundraiser. Though she eventually gets help, and gets better briefly, the depression comes back again.

This is a very well put together show, written by Jon Brittain and with music by Frisky and Mannish’s Matthew Floyd. About halfway through I feel a strong sense of anger at the production. It appears at one point that all that's necessary to beat depression is a combination of a great birthday present and one friend; there is no apparent consideration for the concept of mental illness' reoccurring nature. However, the show is deceptive: like Sally, it looks all shiny on the surface but a certain level of darkness lies behind a glossy exterior.

The accuracy with which depression was presented was the show's best feature. At her most desperate Sally pushes away everyone who loves her and says hateful things to them – not least to her mum and childhood friend.

It’s a show that does get better the longer you sit through it. The were plenty of sobs from audience members but also plenty of laughs too. It’s a blisteringly honest and painful portrayal of depression, but a reminder that hope lies at the end of the tunnel.


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