JOYCE MCMILLAN on WE HOPE THAT YOU’RE HAPPY (WHY WOULD WE LIE?) at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 10.11.12
3 stars ***
CHRISTOPHER BRETT BAILEY is Canadian, Jessica Latowicki is from New York; together, they make up the cast of this latest show from the London-based group Made In China, who create what they call “visceral shows, at the juncture of playwriting and live art”.
What we get, though, in their latest show – at the Traverse until tonight – is more like 50 minutes of intense reflection on the state of mind of young adults in North America now, slightly undermined by a few irritating contemporary performance mannerisms – notably a tendency to seek laughs by gazing knowingly at the audience without actually doing anything, a technique which sets up a mood of flippancy that can be hard to shift, when you want to move on to moe serious stuff.
For all that, though, this show succeeds, in its more intense and tightly-written moments, in conjuring up an image of a generation defined by the threat of disaster, child-like, infinitely sad, and perched on the edge of oblivion; there’s a recurring story of a planned picnic interrupted by disaster – by the planes of 9/11, or the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
So when Brett Bailey and Latowicki suck on junk food pulled from a large blue coolbox , they look like doomed experts in self-destruction; when they douse themselves in flour and ketchup, they suddenly become dazed survivors of a dozen ominous disasters, including last week’s Hurricane Sandy, as it slammed into the New York coastline. There’s a need for a tighter tone here, and less cutesy and pointless toying with the audience; but the talent blazes, all the same, and sketches out what could become a memorable stage poem, about a generation struggling to believe in any future at all.