A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), a cabaret musical about depression at South Holland Centre, SpaldingReview by Winston Brown
Turning the challenges of depression into a cabaret musical is a big risk in anyone's language, even in the ground-breaking world of theatre.
So when Hull-based stage company Silent Uproar Productions brought what it describes as its "hilarious cabaret musical about depression that explains how it is OK to not be OK" to Spalding earlier this month, the jury was out on how it might go down.
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) was based on a stageplay written by Jon Brittain, a graduate of the University of East Anglia, whose award-winning work includes Rotterdam, Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho, Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Game Shows and, most notable, The Crown, with music by Matthew Floyd Jones.
But thanks to an energetic, yet sensitive, central performance by Gloucestershire-born actress Madeleine MacMahon as the central character Sally McKenzie, A Super Happy Story succeeds in its central point that depression is not "the end of the world".
Madeleine benefited from equally energetic support from Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland who, together filled a variety of roles which included Sally's less than perfect mother.
The production takes its audience on a wild and sometimes weird journey through a ten-year period in Sally's life, from her love of music and parties to her humiliation at taking a job as a sales assistant wearing an animal outfit.
Over the course of six acts, Sally's rollercoaster ride between high self-confidence and low self-esteem is told in hard-hitting terms.
What the audience could be forgiven for, at times, was failing to make any connection between Sally's highs and lows.
At one point, this tennis match of two extremes saw Sally sway from the pulsing beats of a nightclub to extreme isolation in her bedroom where she desperately searched to find one of her favourite CD albums.
This was, in every way, a three-way theatre success because Sophie and Ed's supporting roles were the vital fabric that kept Madeleine's portrayal of the sometimes vicious mood swings of depression in their proper context.
There was no "happy ending" to A Super Happy Story, but there was no tragic finale either and that is in every way down to the superb performance of the three cast members.
In fact, the best person to sum it up is Jon Brittain himself who said: "I wanted the play to be about the feeling of having achieved something by recovering from a mental illness which you then make part of your identity, only for someone to relapse which makes it even harder.
"It is the show I would want my friends with depression to see, but not a show where you will leave feeling depressed which will hopefully lure people in."