Happy Place is an all-female tour de force

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Happy Place | Touchstone Theatre in association with Ruby Slippers Theatre and Diwali in BC | Firehall Arts Centre | October 19-29, 2017

In a minimalist, grey rehabilitation centre, six women who have tried to kill themselves help each other find a reason to keep living. Their stories are all unique, yet they share an understanding of the difficulties of finding hope and feeling happy.

A talent-packed cast coupled with a sharply written script by Pamela Mala Sinha made for a riveting performance. Samira (Adele Noronha) arrives at the centre after a suicide attempt that was brought on by her post-rape trauma and hopelessness at the culprit receiving justice. She remembers only pieces of her experience and the memories return bit by bit, sometimes as a trickle and other times as a flood. The other women try to comfort her, at times pry into her past, and some relate to her experience.

Mildred (Nicola Cavendish) provides comic relief as she makes jokes about items that they might use to kill themselves, such as childproof scissors, and describes her happy place as “under a good man with fast hands.” Nina (Laara Sadiq) is convinced she’s pregnant, while she is instead going through menopause, and Joyce (Diane Brown) hides her profound depression by being annoyingly perky all the time. She laments that she has not experienced anything like the rape and sexual assault of some of the other residents, but that she is just extremely sad and was unable to get out of bed. “If you don’t get out of bed,” she explained, “you can’t fail at the day.”

Celine (Sereana Malani) also suffers the trauma of having been raped, and Rosemary (Colleen Wheeler) is frustrated that she has no rights as a stepmom who is not married to her son’s father. Louise (Donna Yamamoto) is their calm, caring psychologist who organizes group activities such as making a collage that represents your happy place.

When Mildred smashes a glass bowl in a fit of rage, a piece of it remains unfound. This, of course, is a concern in a facility where all of the residents have attempted suicide. That shard of glass serves as a chilling metaphor for hopelessness. As Nina says, “Maybe there is no missing piece. Maybe we can’t find it because it isn’t there.” All of these women are looking for something: for meaning, or justice, or love; but they aren’t sure that it can be found. The entire cast gave brilliant performances as these complex, troubled characters. Their interactions with each other were raw and realistic, and even for those who have not experienced depression; there is something everyone can relate to among these authentic characters.    

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