|Promotional artwork for In the Republic of Happiness. (Source: Royal Court Theatre)|
I should probably preface this with two things, one being the show was still in previews (though unlikely it will change much, as the script is already published and being sold in the lobby). The other being that I was heavily jelagged, and I'd gone to bed about 4pm the previous day, so seeing a show at 7:30pm that ran to 9:30pm was devastating.
Crimp's idiosyncratic writing style is exactly what you'd expect from his plays, with reoccurring motifs, actions and subjects being shared by characters in a script that makes even the most mundane phrase have a sense of significance behind, while it's also crammed full of striking phrases ("I suddenly appeared.", "It's more than that/It doesn't go deep enough.", "I don't think you understand how happy you are."). Both are apparent in the premise of the piece, a slice of life realism and naturalism which quickly descends into the surreal when a bland Christmas dinner becomes propelled by uncomfortable and cracking tension through the arrival of the estranged uncle.
|The ensemble during one of the brilliant musical breakdowns|
(Source: The Independent).
The ensemble cast, including Anna Calder-Marshall, Michelle Fielding, Seline Hizli, Ellie Kendrick, Stuart McQuarrie, and Peter Wight, are all just fantastic, perfectly portraying their characters in correlation to their age and political identities with . In particular, Paul Ready as the sinister Uncle Bob is so compelling to watch, and his appearance and presence totally flips the style and mood of the piece. Michelle Terry, playing his wife Madeline, is also just as stunning, furthering the disruption of balance on stage and pushing the family into a deeper level of distress - her sudden break into singing was just hilarious and I adored and wanted to watch the scene over and over again.
In the Republic of Happiness is an intriguing and compelling production which examines happiness in a way unlike I've ever seen before. It's not Crimp's strongest work in that, compared to Attempts on her Life or The Country, it didn't manage to engage me for the whole duration, most notably in the middle which seems to meander too long on too many political issues. However attention is maintained through the excellent songs, and the opening scene is Crimp's typically brilliant style of hybridised naturalism with surrealism with many intelligent and humorous lines, and the pensive and unsettling ending leaves a profound impact in that is just baffling. I still maintain that Crimp is one of Britain's best postmodern playwrights, and although it's not easy to sit through it some times I recommend this piece just as much as any other of his previous works. It's poetic, brooding and compelling, and will leave you considering it for days.