Tag Archives: Madeleine MacMahon

Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

VAULT Festival

Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

The Vaults

Reviewed – 31st January 2019



“the delivery and the performances of these dynamic character actors certainly make you stand up and listen”


“If you were affected by any of the issues raised in this programme…” is such a common tagline on our television screens nowadays, that most people have become inured to it. A quick surf online shows that where there is still a reaction to the announcements, they are usually ones of annoyance at their ‘Nanny-State’ superficiality. Understandable perhaps, but unfair and unreasonable. In reality, these helplines do have a significant impact in encouraging people to seek help for a wide range of problems.

“Silent Uproar” adopt the same sense of responsibility by exit flyering their show “A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)” with details of where to get support for those struggling with mental health. The award-winning company makes theatre to “make the world a little less shit”. Maybe not the most highbrow tagline, but it is true to their playfully honest approach. And it also helps sweep away the preconception that a musical about depression is going to make for a pretty cheerless evening. “A Super Happy Story…” is anything but cheerless. Written by Jon Brittain with music by Matthew Floyd Jones, it is an uplifting and insightful cabaret about a young woman’s fight with depression.

Sally (played by Madeleine MacMahon) is “fine”, as she repeatedly tells everybody (Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland – impressively playing a diverse roll call of all the other characters). MacMahon brilliantly encapsulates the manic over insistence on having a good time with which Sally embarks on her journey. It begins with denial, then runs the gauntlet of anger, bargaining and acceptance after which she gets better. We think the show is reaching a natural happy ending. But then we are harshly reminded that every silver lining has its own black cloud.

It’s not a ground-breaking message, but the delivery and the performances of these dynamic character actors certainly make you stand up and listen. Clay and Yelland, as Sally’s best friend, boss, mother, boyfriend and much more, are hilarious. Yet they also manage to convey the minefield one needs to navigate when treading the path towards recovery. They understand completely the notion that if you can amuse an audience, you will find that they are far more receptive to what you have to say. The show packs a powerful punch while making you laugh out loud.

The songs slot into the action like interludes between the chapters of Sally’s life, with tight harmonies accompanied by a lone pianist to the side of the stage (it is unclear, though, whether this is Floyd Jones himself or Tom Penn, the credited touring MD). Again, the juxtaposition of upbeat melodies with weighty words shrouds the educational aspects of the show in entertainment.

Depression often feeds on being ignored, which is part of the crux of Sally’s story. This is a show that cannot, and must not be ignored. It is heartfelt and rings absolutely true. Depression might never really go away but, as Sally ultimately declares; “I’m not bad. And not bad feels pretty damn good.”

Nobody can accuse this show of merely being ‘not bad’. I’d say it’s ‘pretty damn good’.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography courtesy Silent Uproar


Vault Festival 2019

Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad)

Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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Into the Woods – 4 Stars


Into the Woods

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 25th May 2018


“a hugely complex work with multi-layered lessons and warnings”


Sondheim and Lapine’s Tony Award winning musical, ‘Into the Woods’, is transported imaginatively to the 21st century by Tim McArthur in a slick and entertaining production. It illustrates the timelessness of fairy tales, the messages they convey and, more importantly, the ones they don’t. ‘Cinderella’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk’ and ‘Rapunzel’ are woven together by the plight of a baker and his wife who must undo a spell of infertility cast on them by a wicked witch. In Act One we enjoy the familiar stories as they all wish for their dreams and enter the woods – the big, brutal world – in pursuit of them. Their quests successful and desires fulfilled, they can live happily ever after. Or can they? Act Two unravels these aspirations, the consequences of how they are achieved, followed by disillusionment, responsibility, revenge, loss … and, ultimately, the many realisations of adulthood, including the underlying fascination for what lies in the woods.

The array of contemporary, larger-than-life roles fits effortlessly together. Some, however, find a more rounded definition than others: Jamie O’Donnell steals the show with his beautifully detailed interpretation of Jack, giving him depth and pathos, and his mother (Madeleine MacMahon) draws a wonderful picture of his background with her strong personality. Michele Moran, as the witch, arouses both fear and sympathy and Cinderella (Abigail Carter-Simpson) and Red Riding Hood (Florence Odumosu) depict a more human and questioning side to their personalities from the beginning. As the narrator, Jordan Michael Todd skilfully creates his own charismatic persona, embedding himself surreptitiously into the action while drawing us in as the storyteller.

The ensemble singing is tightly coordinated and well-balanced but the individual voices are less consistent. Both Jo Wickham and Tim McArthur show their professional musical theatre experience and there are many strong newcomers, but a few are, on occasions, overshadowed by the band. Aaron Clingham (Musical Director) and his musicians provide the perfect accompaniment to the performance.

Staged in the round, we are wrapped up in the comings and goings of the play, with wood chippings underfoot. Joana Dias’ set design of assorted ladders gives the feeling of a play for adults, offset by the rudimentary props. The lighting (Vittorio Verta) ably fashions the dappled sunlight and shadows in the woods as well as the fairy-tale special effects.

‘Into the Woods’ is a hugely complex work with multi-layered lessons and warnings. The overriding theme appears as “Be careful what you wish for” but there is also a powerful point made to parents: “Be careful what you say, children may listen”. Mothers and fathers figure prominently, accepting or otherwise the repercussions of their parenting. It broaches the subjects of blame and greed, reinforces the supportive nature of survival and addresses our natural sense of adventure – do we want to live happily ever after or do we want to live life? Tim McArthur’s astute direction brings out these ideas and makes them relevant.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington 

Photography by David Ovenden


Into the Woods

Cockpit Theatre until 24th June


Also directed by Tim McArthur
Hot Lips & Cold War | ★★★★★ | London Theatre Workshop | February 2018


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