I will start out by saying that this play by Samuel Beckett focuses on a woman buried up to her waist in a mound of earth. She monologues her thought processes and every fleeting idea occasionally interrupted by her barely glimpsed companion. I am not as well versed in theatre as I would like so can understand how this might not sound like a good night out.
What 'Happy Days' in fact is, in this production at the Tower Theatre, is a funny surreal look at a woman's life stuck in a moment that she can't get out of. Winnie (Ruth Sullivan) is a outwardly cheery sort, atop a slate mountain with her large bag of objects and precious things that help her cope each day. Her husband, Willie (Ian Hoare), is visible only behind a paper with his straw hat and hankie but his interjections and grumbling are vital to the show.
However this is very much Ruth Sullivan's play and her performance is absolutely knockout. She has a lovely light comic touch, bringing a real energy to the text's rhythmic repetition. Her characters constant chatter rather than becoming annoying is given a dotty charm and sweetness. The tragedy of Winnie's situation is allowed to slowly seep through as Sullivan flickers from joy to sadness as her superficial happiness starts to crumble.
She expresses relief at one point that she is glad she has Willie as otherwise she would just be talking to herself . In the 2nd part of the piece, as time and soil has her further stuck she muses on how time and marriage has stripped her of her attractiveness, her ability to better herself and her life. All she is left with is her thoughts and memories that grow ever bleaker. Sullivan has to use every face muscle to express the battle that rages in Winnie's head as her dreams fade and reality in this most surreal of landscapes starts to bite hard. The set and lightning are really effective, the slow movement from dawn to dusk and the darkening colour pallete as the narrative gets bleaker
Actresses have described the part of Winnie as the equivalent of Hamlet for female actors. Ruth Sullivan is a captivating presence that drives this fine production
Happy Days runs at the Tower theatre, Stoke Newington until Saturday 20th April