A Short Cut to Happiness (3 stars)

A Short Cut to Happiness

An uncomfortable mix of TED talk and self-harm

Emilie Hetland's solo performance is balanced between two narratives: a woman presents a self-help lecture, while remembering her past experiences as a self-harming teenager. It's a variation on the fashionable issue play, framing trauma within the more playful and humorous delivery of a speech that gradually becomes unhinged and chaotic.

Despite a small audience, Hetland gives her all: cartwheeling onto the stage, singing pop hits with adapted lyrics, insisting that 'depression is cancelled'. The lecture itself is a parody of pop-psychology, filled with name-drops, crass misquotations and simplistic repression of emotions. It never quite works, and not purely because the character is struggling herself. The juxtaposition of the more serious scenes undermines the satirical humour, and Hetland invites mockery of the lecturer rather than sympathy.

The attempt to combine humour with a serious topic is intriguing, but the flashbacks are relentlessly bleak and the references to the Eurovision Song Contest jibe with the descriptions of blood-letting and suicide. The gap between the David Brent-like character who presents the lecture and the tormented adolescent is huge, and the production can't decide whether it wants to be broad satire of popular psychology or tragic depiction of a young person's pain.

ZOO Playground, run ended.

A Short Cut to Happiness

  • 3 stars

Volya Theatre A razor sharp and surreal exploration of mental health and modernity, through the fractured lens of a manic motivational speaker. With movement, music and an intensely physical performance, Julia is determined to arrest her audience and wow them with her Eurovision-inspired motivational speaking. Haunted…

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