Mark Ireson introduces A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)
Book and lyrics by Jon Brittain Music by Matthew Floyd Jones.
What attracted you to directing this play with music? How did you discover it?
Back in 2019 when we could freely go to theatres, a couple of friends and I saw the original production at The Vaults in Waterloo. It was a lively, funny show, full of energy and great songs, but with a heartbreaking story at the centre. It was a show we discussed at length afterwards for its realistic approach to portraying depression and then recommended to friends, many of whom saw it and loved it too.
It tends to be that scripts for small scale shows such as this never get published, but Jon Brittain (Rotterdam and Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho) is becoming a well known playwright, and six months later I picked up the script in Foyles, and fell head over heels for it again. When the Theatre Committee were looking for small cast plays to perform in a socially distanced way, I knew it would fit the bill – as the cast sing, “it’s a joyful, buoyant, gleeful, slightly silly, family friendly, sugar coated, unrelenting and completely super happy show. Except for all the bits about depression!”
The main character is Sally, played by Maeve Curry (Father of Lies and Holes at SLT). She’s a happy go lucky teenager who LOVES music, but while she’s doing her exams she first experiences depression. We follow her over the coming years as she struggles with the disease, and see the highs and lows. Along the way there are a multitude of other characters – parents, friends, bosses, fellow sufferers and others – played by the other two cast members, Daniel Paul (Jeffrey, By Jeeves! and Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens) and SLT newcomer Emily Windham (who will be directing Kae Tempest’s Wasted at SLT later in the year). They are joined by our terrific musical director and pianist Andrew Chadney.
Mental Health is such an important topic today. How does Super Happy deal with this sensitive subject?
I’m from a generation that never discussed the state of our mental health. There was something shameful about even mentioning if you had a problem, and seeing a therapist was seen as a sign of weakness. I find it so refreshing to see younger people these days rather more open and comfortable with talking about their mental health, and this play is part of that. Without giving too much of a spoiler, the play doesn’t shy away from the depths of despair, but there’s plenty about strategies to help. In particular, it stresses the importance of talking with others, something we have all come to appreciate in the past year of isolation.
When lockdown came along in October, we’d only been rehearsing for a couple of weeks, but we had already bonded as a company, with a huge enthusiasm for the show. It was a real disappointment to be cut short like that, but we were all determined to do the show as soon as we safely could, and that same enthusiasm has been here from the off since we restarted rehearsals.
What do you hope audiences will take away from these plays?
Joy, tears and half a dozen cracking songs, making for a different, fun night out.
And: It’s OK not to be OK
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) runs June 29-July 4, including a 2.30pm matinee on the Sunday.