Friday, 31 January 2014

Happy Days at the Young Vic

Happy Days

photo credit Johan Persson

ANYONE permanently buried up to their waist and then neck in sand and gravel would have to have a cheery disposition to survive and not sink into madness.
And yet this almost impossibly sounding scenario is played out in Samuel Beckett's play Happy Days, a new production of which is now on at the Young Vic.
Set in blazing sunshine on a rocky and constantly eroding escarpment which juts out into the auditorium, it sees actress Juliet Stevenson as Winnie, a woman with a ridiculously sunny outlook trapped from the waist down.
It is essentially a one-woman show with Winnie babbling on, reminiscing about her life and taking comfort in her daily routines which include saying a few prayers, wondering whether it is the right time to sing her song or put up her umbrella and counting her blessings.
Also important to her sanity is a dusty black bag and its contents which is just within arms length.
During the course of the play, everything gets taken out of the bag and is meticulously placed in front of her which she then studies in great detail.
In between all this she periodically calls out to her very detached husband Willie to make sure he is still there and within earshot.
Willie, played by David Beames, is not often seen by either the audience or Winnie and is only occasionally heard, and spends most of his time in a hole near where Winnie is trapped.
And if things look bleak for Winnie in the first half, after a landslide of pebbles the second half sees her buried up to her neck making it almost too harrowing to watch.
It is a story of mind over matter and one woman's battle to survive against all the odds and Juliet Stevenson gives a truly mesmerising performance.

Happy Days is on at the Young Vic until March 8. Tickets from £10. Call the box office on 020 7922 2922.

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