Theatre Review: Happy Days in the Art World

By Becky Hogg


I sat down to the view of a sparse stage setting in front of me. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this play… could it be comedy, a drama, a thriller? Well, a black comedy is what it turned out to be – my favourite!

‘Happy Days in the Art World’ illustrates the contested battle between two worlds – the corporate vs. the creative – through portrayal of mid-career panic and creative deadlock. Set in a hotel room in New York City, the play tells the story of two men who have awoken with no recollection of how they got there – nothing dodgy, they are in bunk beds! In the first instance it seems that they are two separate people, but with the sharing of a shoe from the ‘corporate’ figure named Me (Charles Edwards) to his more compassionate creative counterpart Id (Joseph Fiennes), it is apparent that the two characters represent the split personality of one man who is struggling to sustain his chosen career whilst fending off his creative outbursts. The subtle symbolism of the play is reflective of the sinister elements of Samuel Beckett – with a nod towards Waiting for Godot included. Whilst Me is rationally sizing up the situation of how he ended up where he is (symbolising his state of mind), Id is busy taking in the strange new environment in haste – a portrayal of the conflicting personalities. The arrival of Bi (Kim Criswell – who gives an outstanding 5 minute dialogue on American corporatism) adds to the mixture of personalities in the play. Represented in the form of a tough American UPS delivery woman, Bi represents the corporate world in which Me and Id are entangled as one. Criswell’s rendition of ‘One Love’ by U2 deserves a mention due to its comedic value and seemingly displaced relevance – as well as spot on tonality! The Freudian references to the character’s names fit perfectly into the theme of psychoanalysis and how there is the Me, the Id, and Bi in each individual. Perfect for you psychology students out there looking to impress your lecturers with your cultural knowledge!

Magnificently scripted by Norwegian playwrights Elmgreen & Dragset, this play is a modern classic – at many times funny, but with a dark and serious undertone of the depths of Freudian psychoanalysis. For theatre fanatics who enjoy a modern play with a flair for noir, this is your calling!} else {