Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Daf James Play: Audience Very Happy

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

On the Other Hand, We're Happy- Theatr Clwyd & Paines Plough , Roundabout @ Summerhall , August 20, 2019
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by On the Other Hand, We're Happy- Theatr Clwyd & Paines Plough Nothing is certain in the arts. The audience will make its verdict. But if a combination looked set to work out well, it would have to be Theatr Clwyd and Paines Plough harnessing the craft, the experience, and the humanity, of Daf James.

And so it has proven. The warmth of reception for “On the Other Hand, We're Happy” kicked off promptly with Radio Wales, below 11th August.

Print and online media were swift to follow.

From Broadway Baby

“On the other Hand We’re Happy” has all the appearance of being a two-hander character piece, mixing pathos and comedy with real skill.

“But writer Daf James is happy to plant a few surprises on us, not least when both characters suddenly turn to the audience around them, inviting opinions and even taking a vote to help decide what they should do when it comes to adopting a child. It's not your typical interactive Choose Your Own Adventure theatre - James is still very much in charge, using the couple to warn us that "this is a story about love, but sometimes we have to go dark." That's sometimes almost literal; other times, we're talking much more emotionally. Despite the artificiality, we care.

“With an excellent cast – Charlotte O’Leary, in particular, emotionally grounds Kelly when the character could have been little more than a cheap “chav” stereotype – this is a drama that works well. Although perhaps James could've avoided the temptation of retrospectively overlapping events in the characters' earlier lives which, frankly, raises the spectre of coincidence just too much. It's a small quibble, though, about an otherwise succinct little drama that fits its running time almost perfectly.”

From What's On Stage

“Budding young couple Abbi and Josh are high on mandy, coming back from a party. Abbi, breaking out of a meandering spiel, turns deadly serious: she says she wants to have a baby. Josh, boggled, sweaty, trying to get his bearings in the back of an Uber, agrees.

Months and a low sperm count later, the pair have decided that adoption is their best option. It's here that Daf James' new play, which has its premiere as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Roundabout season, really hits the sweet spot. Exploring the psychology and ethics of bringing a child into your home, he teases out some fantastic questions: should an infant be judged by the name they have? Or the family they came from? As Josh puts it, wearily, anyone being adopted is "more likely to come from a place of chaos."

“...this a bloody nice piece of writing that glitters underneath Peter Small's twinklingly sepia lighting.”
From Bouquets and Brickbats

“On the Other Hand We’re Happy is a play about adoption – the hopes, the perils, the joys and pitfalls of the process. Like most productions by Paines Plough, it’s brilliantly staged and powerfully acted. Written by Daf James and directed by Stef O’Driscoll, this is an object lesson in how to toy with an audience’s emotions, and it succeeds admirably on just about every level. It’s a powerful, compelling story.

“I love the direction of this piece, the way the actors appear to tumble and lurch from scene to scene, cutting back and forth in time, seeming to literally fall from one sequence to the next. Charlotte O’ Leary plays Tyler and also her mother, Kelly – a deliciously sweary Welsh woman, who may have taken some wrong turns in her life, but still wants the best for her daughter. All three performances are top notch, but Omari-Kinch’s physicality stands out. His is a character caught up in a maelstrom of wild emotions, flinging himself recklessly around the circular stage of Roundabout like an out of control automaton.

“The conclusion is almost overpoweringly emotional and I watch the actors taking their well-deserved bows through a film of tears. If you like quality theatre, head down to Summerhall and catch this vibrant, beating heart of a play before it moves on.

It’s one of the best shows we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe.”

From Theatre Weekly

“On the Other Hand, We’re Happy is a new drama from renowned Welsh playwright, Daf James, kickstarting its national tour at Paines Plough’s Roundabout venue at Summerhall. An appropriately intimate venue for an incredibly delicate exploration of a myriad of themes ranging from grief, loss and masculinity to love, companionship and, most importantly, the modern perception and process of adoption.

“For an hour-and-a-quarter piece diving into such a weighty theme and personal journey for every character, James’ writing has the graceful fluidity that many other scripts couldn’t possibly possess. Accompanied by Stef O’Driscoll’s slick and dazzling direction, what comes is what can only be described as a well-oiled storytelling machine that guides the audience through an intense and emotional thrill ride.

“Arguably the most impressive and captivating element of this already stunning show is the immaculate lighting design from Peter Small. Illustrating the stages of grief as well as the process of panic attacks and the unexpected speed of growing up through bright, rapidly cascading lights, with accompaniment from Dominic Kennedy’s urgent and moving sound design is the cherry on top of this delicious theatrical cake.

"On the Other Hand We’re Happy is quite simply a triumph. An honest, beautifully tender story of how such an important subject as adoption affects every party involved that asks and answers the biggest questions in the same sitting. With every member of this team giving their absolute all and it well and truly paying off, this is a piece that you cannot afford to miss.”

Reviews, cited with thanks, can be read in full at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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