Fowler is a writer to look out for: his text is at turns comical, imaginative and surprising. He gives the actors lots to work with, and Royal Court Associate Director Lucy Morrison adds physical flair and playfulness to the piece. The carnival inspired set is designed by Naomi Dawson and attempts to encapsulate the madness of the world, but doesn’t quite pull it off because the text doesn’t delve deeply enough into the metaphor of capitalism as a circus.
Hope has a Happy Meal. Photo: Helen Murray
The five-strong multi-roling ensemble are vivacious and give it their all. Laura Checkley as protagonist Hope is endearing, down to earth and funny, especially when she busts out the dance moves. Mary Malone is sweetness personified as Isla the new surrogate mother for her murdered sister’s son. Amaka Okafor is understandably incensed as Hope’s long time abandoned sister, who has turned to drink to drown her sorrows. Felix Scott is hilarious as the smooth talking Koka Kola Airlines captain, who multi-roles as Wayne the murderous cop (Wayne incidentally gets a national holiday in his name by the end of the play). Nima Taleghani is entirely loveable as Ali, the forest ranger who Hope and Isla discover trying to commit suicide because there is no forest to look after. This scene is one of the physical comedy highlights of the piece and has the audience in hysterics.
With all that said, the show as a whole doesn’t work. There are some fantastical moments, including a bizarre gameshow hosted by a makeshift Ronald McDonald which doesn’t add anything, and some soap opera drama cliches are thrown into the plot (think Chekhov’s gun) which don’t feel fully earned. More surprising moments could have been created had there been more time, space and dramaturgy for Fowler to utilise his clearly vivid imagination.
I’m sad to report the setting doesn’t work either. That the characters live in an ultra-capitalist society where all landscapes and landmarks have been bought by conglomerates has no real bearing on the plot, except when characters get to say silly place names like Disney Quarry, Samsung Central and Nike International. This is a shame because it’s an intriguing conceit, and could have been developed further, but there are too many ideas packed into this play that don’t get fully realised, and Hope’s journey to find her son understandably takes precedence because it is a human – and relatable – story.
New plays should be allowed the space to not quite work, but before you go, you need to decide whether you have the patience to search for the sparkling gems scattered amongst the rocks.
|What||Hope has a Happy Meal, Royal Court Theatre review|
|Where||Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
03 Jun 23 – 08 Jul 23, 7:45 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|