Hey guys! Last week, me and my family watched ‘A super happy story about feeling super sad’ at Thornton Village Hall as part of the Back to Ours events over half term. ‘A super happy story about feeling super sad’ was performed by the theatre company Silent Uproar and it tackled depression in a sensitive and compassionate way. True to its name, there were definitely parts of the performance designed to make the audience jubilant or laugh but it didn’t glamourize or sugarcoat what depression really was. So in today’s post, I will review ‘A super happy story about feeling super sad’ and grant you with my honest opinion.
The set up of the stage was deliberately manipulated to appear bright and cheery. Everywhere you looked, there was glitter, bright lights and sequins. The three performers even wore green sequined jackets and they wore them while they opened the performance with an animated, chirpy song. There was a guy playing the piano along with their singing and I think this added to the overall happy effect of this opening number.
After that, they launched into the main story. It was centred around 16 year old Sally who was out at a bar watching her favourite band ever perform. She’d snuck in with a fake ID and it was shaping up to be an amazing night. She was jamming out to the music with her friend Grace and the most attractive guy in their year at school, Darren, appeared. He nearly kissed Sally but Grace appeared and cajoled them into taking a selfie with her. But even though this night was supposed to be amazing for her, an unbelievable spasm of sadness invaded her body and this was where her depression began.
We were introduced to her mum who worked away a lot. Her mum had met her dad in McDonald’s and their eyes had met over his chicken nuggets and they’d instantly hit it off. Then, nine months later, Sally had come along. Having no dad and an absent, inattentive mum definitely didn’t help the situation with her depression.
After that, we were introduced to Toby, her childhood neighbour. Because they were born around the same time as each other, they were the ideal playmates. They were complete opposites in many ways: Sally loved different types of music whereas Toby was obsessed with only Meatloaf; Sally did better than Toby in school; Sally had much bigger aspirations than Toby. She wanted to change the world. It was somewhat a relief when he moved away when they turned 12.
Sally’s depression had gradual but necrotic effects. She lost friends like Grace, she was abandoned by her boyfriend Darren and she was isolated from her oblivious mum. No one could quite understand her depression or how she felt. Music was a constant love for her; it would never abandon her no matter what. One day, she couldn’t find a certain CD and rage was overwhelming her in lethal waves. It wasn’t even one of her favourite CDs but it was enough to catalyse a massive tantrum from her. She realised that if she couldn’t find this CD, what chance did she have of passing her upcoming exams? So she refused to leave the sanctuary her bed and failed all of the exams.
Failing all her exams meant Sally had limited options for a career. She finally found a position wangling money off people in the street for a company. Her boss Karen ordered for them to bring in lots of money so that is what she set out to do. Dressed in a dog onesie, every person that ignored her or shot her a disgusted look in the street contributed to the destruction of her self esteem. As if it couldn’t get any worse, her team leader was Toby. She’d hit rock bottom. That was enough to send her into a melt down and Toby found her sobbing a little way along the street after she never returned from her lunch break. He gave her some pretty good advice though. ‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think’ (Winnie the Pooh).
After some probing from her mum since Sally was in denial about her depression, Sally finally visited a help group for mental health. She tried to listen to everyone and gather her courage but when it was her turn to speak, she clammed up and mumbled so they had to skip her. She fled as soon as the meeting ended but was stopped by a straight talking women called Tash who offered her a cigarette. Tash told her some of her own story; she had been bipolar for 10 years and she’d gradually got better. She reassured Sally that she’d recover from her depression with time.
After that, Sally continued to visit the group and she received medication for her depression. One morning, for the first time in ages, she noticed the beauty of the morning sun as she was dashing off to work. From there, things began to look up. Karen offered her a new job selling solar panels and she ended up with a role in the creating of them which was really cool. Her relationship with her mum massively improved and her and Toby became good friends with her trying to help him get his life together. Her depression seemed to have been cured so she ditched her medication, help group and her therapist.
For her 22nd birthday, Toby took her to Disneyland. After tackling all the daring rides there, they took a rest and Toby revealed her presents: a Meatloaf mixtape and a Winnie the Pooh bear to remind her of the advice he gave her. In that moment, she should’ve been totally elated but instead, the depression callously swarmed back in to replace it.
From there, things went downhill. Karen, her boss, was the first to notice. She offered Sally a holiday to recover but Sally denied not being okay and worked harder to try and prove it. Sally’s mum nagged her to see the doctor or therapist again or return to the help group again but Sally was in complete denial about it. In the end, she stopped taking her calls and she cut her mum out of her life completely. The only person who didn’t seem to take the hint was Toby. So one night, when he’d come round especially to see her, she had a rant at him, insulted him and coerced him into leaving her alone. After that, there was no one left in her life. This was when Sally decided she wanted to die. She couldn’t live any longer and she wanted to die.
She planned it all exactly. She ran a bath and wore some comfy clothes. She played some music and slipped into the bath where she twisted the knife into her. As she began to pass away, a meatloaf song from the mix tape Toby gifted her with began to play and Sally realised she couldn’t die listening to meatloaf. In fact, she couldn’t die and miss out on all the songs that would ever be released and all the artists that would ever take the music world by storm. That was enough for her to plunge out of the bath and crawl towards her phone to call her mum for help.
Sally was rushed into hospital and thankfully saved from death. She moved back in with her mum and her mum cared for her through the positive and negative moments of her life. She salvaged her friendship with Toby who’d had temporary amnesia so he couldn’t remember a word of her insults to him. Some days were amazing. Some days were awful and she wished she’d killed herself instead. But gradually, she recovered and found a way of managing the depression.
10 years later from the start of the story, for her 26th birthday, her favourite high school band was playing at the same bar so she brought Toby and her mum along. Younger boys kept flirting with her mum and she repeatedly inquired about whether Sally’d mind having a young stepdad. Toby thought the band was okay but they couldn’t compare to meatloaf. She suddenly sighted Tash from the help group and sprinted to catch up to her. At first, Tash remained silent while Sally thanked her for her help in her recovery. Tash eventually congratulated her on her recovery and the two wished each other the best for the future.
Sally rushed back inside and captured a selfie with her mum and Toby. But this time, she didn’t feel like she was dying inside. This time, she was okay. She was on the road to recovery, to managing her illness day to day without it invading and controlling her entire life.
Overall, I thought this performance was amazing. Yes there were some pretty depressing parts like when Sally tries to kill herself but the juxtaposition of the bright, jubilant stage decor to Sally’s depression story really emphasises how it’s easy to hide how you are feeling inside. It really raised awareness about how it’s important to talk things over with people you trust and to seek help from others.
Thank you for reading this post! What do you think of this event? Let me know in the comments section! There’ll be another post out soon but until then bye for now!
Amelia Grace a.k.a Amelia in Hull