Happy Days review


Belinda Giblin in Red Line Productions’ Happy Days By Samuel Beckett. Photo by Robert Catto.

Have you ever enjoyed a show even though you were mentally constantly banging your brain against the inside of your skull? What felt like hours, felt like minutes after the show. As my mate described the experience to a couple of strangers we sat next to at the pub after the show, it was “satisfying”. Also, I’m not sure how one reviews a Beckett play, but I’m gonna review it in a stream of consciousness. As homage to this “interesting” experience.

Charles Davis’ set design was marvellous. And Shareeka Helaluddin’s soundscape was psychedelic, blaring and bizarre. And initially, we were blinded with bright yellow lights in our eyes. And once the lights lifted, we were graced with a gigantic pile of dirt and war, as if a missile had landed in an Aussie backyard with bricks, a cricket bat and plastic chairs sticking out of the pile of dirt and at its pinnacle, waist-deep in a hole was an adorable sweet Belinda Giblin in a night slip. And that punny holiday billboard sign. “Resort. There’s nothing like it!”. Exactly, there’s nothing here, so what do we resort to?

To the everyday mundaneness. The optimistic quotes we tell ourselves to have a “happy day”. Being thankful for any little thing that happens in our bleak, dull, miserable lives. But also enjoying the everyday routine rituals we do in our lives: brushing teeth, our hair, and then questioning what we are doing with our lives. I got World War 2 and lockdown vibes from this play. A mix of apocalyptic aesthetic and “Can you please be productive with your life? Just get yourself out of that hole you’re stuck in and move on. But can’t we? Can we? Oooh cool thing…”.

Belinda Giblin in Red Line Productions’ Happy Days By Samuel Beckett. Photo by Robert Catto.

From his production of John to this, I have to admit Craig Baldwin has a way with Absurdist plays. He holds his audience’s attention, especially with his style of detailed sets, but honours the playwright’s existential effect through his direction of the acting. And both actors must be applauded for being brilliant at bringing such words and characters to life.  After my mate told the strangers in the pub his review, one of them unexpectedly wanted to watch the play. It was a good production. But it was Beckett. And it’s an experience one should have at least once in their lives.

Josephine Lee, 19 (She/Her)


Oh, this is going to be another happy day!

Samuel Beckett’s writings often get categorised as absurdist, and modernist. Happy Days is no exception to that. And while of course, it is absurd and very strange, it also feels surprisingly realistic and oddly relevant. Especially after lockdown.

Belinda Giblin in Red Line Productions’ Happy Days By Samuel Beckett. Photo by Robert Catto.

The entire play is static. Winnie, played by the entrancing Belinda Giblin, is stuck waist-deep in a mound of dirt and rubble. And behind the pile, usually hidden from sight, lies her husband Willy, played by Lex Marinos. It’s never explained how or why they’re there. They just simply are there. And so Winnie starts her day like usual, going through her daily routine, chattering away to Willy, who occasionally says a word or two. But in a way, Willy is more a puppet to allow Winnie to talk. “Just to know that in theory, you can hear me even though in fact you don’t is all that I need.”Essentially making the whole play a monologue from Winnie, narrating her thoughts.

While two hours of this might sound like a test of attention, I found Belinda Giblins’ performance absolutely captivating. Something she captures beautifully in her performance is the conflict within Winnie. While she tries to stay positive and happy, you can see the despair in her eyes, the sorrow and the manic nature. That makes it a truly distressing show to watch.

But what I find surprising is how Happy Days was also reassuring in a strange way. I think it is actually a blessing in disguise that this show was postponed because of lockdown. I feel I understood it in a way I wouldn’t have been able to earlier this year. And I related to Winnie perhaps a worrying amount. The themes of being trapped, feeling stuck, and trying to stay positive in an awful situation rang so true. This play could mean a lot of different things to different people, and I think that’s what makes it so beautiful.

Belinda Giblin in Red Line Productions’ Happy Days By Samuel Beckett. Photo by Robert Catto.

While this show is undeniably bleak, it also has a sense of energy, a feeling of being alive. And I highly suggest it for anyone who is in the mood for a thought-provoking show.

Astra, 16 (She/Her)

Red Line Productions’ Happy Days is playing at the Old Fitz until 30 November. Book your tickets here.