Happy Days**** (Young Vic, 27 February 2014)

Posted: February 27, 2014 in Theatre

photo-78Not to be confused with another show that is going the rounds at the moment, this is Samuel Beckett’s play built on sand and there is no Fonz in sight. Juliet Stephenson up to her waist in sand is perhaps 50% short of what might have improved Truly, Madly, Deeply, but that is unkind because she is a consummate stage actor and, in this monologue (with occasional interruptions), she is terrific. Having only her voice and her facial expressions to work with, she plays Winnie, a woman who fakes jollity and sees every bottle as half full, whilst almost bursting with inner rage.  Her husband (David Beames) is living in a nearby hole and he makes occasional appearances, even speaking a few short lines, but, mostly, this play is about the fortitude of Winnie. Being Beckett, there is no logic, no reason is given why Winnie is stuck in a pile of sand and hardly any mention is made of the fact, we just see it. Maybe Beckett  intends the sand as a metaphor for disability, social disadvantage, or the mundanity of ordinary life, but it matters little because the playwright merely needs to plant such ideas in our heads and then let them free to swim around. The set, an enormous bank of sand, is a wonder to behold and the surreal image of Winnie, a middle-aged, lower middle class woman, protruding from it wearing a pale blue 1960s hat, is one that will live in the memory for a very long time. A rare treat.

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