Review: In the republic of happiness at the Royal Court

Satirical, surreal and stunning: Dominic Cooke’s production of Matrin Crimp’s new play is something to see. Satirical, surreal and stunning: Dominic Cooke’s production of Matrin Crimp’s new play is something to see.

Lesley-Anne Morley

Self-obsession satirised in ways both gripping and entertaining as the Royal Court offers up Martin Crimp’s new play, In the Republic of Happiness.

The first leg of the journey, named Destruction of the Family, shows a family Christmas dinner, full of everything but festive cheer, interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Uncle Bob who exposes the many reasons why each person at the table is hated by his wife Madeline.

Next, in The Five Essential Freedoms of the Individual, the entire family find themselves in a talk show setting sharing frustrations, secrets and obsessions about the self in today’s society.

The final third, In the Republic of Happiness, leaves us with Bob and Madeline trying to come to terms with their choice to live in a world where one finds happiness through solely through personal fulfilment.

While confusing at times, I was almost expecting a Jerry Springer-esque flash-forward when the dinner table was pulled away and the eight characters sat in a row facing the audience and the first group sing-a-long made me raise an eyebrow, Crimp does remarkably well laying out the problems of our world right now.

I was in awe of designer Miriam Buether’s flawless set changes and amazed when the entire middle section of the stage rose up and up to give us a giant white room with a view of all things bleak for the final third of the play.

Enjoyable as it was, I somehow feel worse about myself, the world and the idea of happiness.  That’s not to say it’s a dismal failure as a night out, Crimp’s plays often have that affect.  The experimental set up, musical interludes (with upbeat, but darkly satirical songs and music by Roald van Oosten) and an outstanding cast make this a show worth seeing. 

Just don’t expect to come out of it with the solutions to life’s unhappiness.

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