EDINBURGH 2019: Review: ON THE OTHER HAND, WE'RE HAPPY, Roundabout @ Summerhall

By: Aug. 18, 2019
Edinburgh Festival
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EDINBURGH 2019: Review: ON THE OTHER HAND, WE'RE HAPPY, Roundabout @ Summerhall

EDINBURGH 2019: Review: ON THE OTHER HAND, WE'RE HAPPY, Roundabout @ Summerhall

On The Other Hand, We're Happy begins with a whirlwind journey through Abbie (Charlotte Bate) and Josh (Toyin Omari-Kinch)'s relationship. Buying a house, wanting children, marriage. Not being able to get pregnant. They decide to adopt.

Daf James' script combines with Stef O'Driscoll's direction to make brilliant use of the Roundabout space. The venue is as much a part of Paines Plough's yearly presence at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as the trio of new plays they commission.

James incorporates it cleverly into his text, with Abbie and Josh asking the difficult questions about adoption direct to the audience: we are asked to vote on how they fill in the adoption form. It suits the round, and gives glimpses into just how difficult this process must be for those who choose it.

The crux of the story comes without Abbie, as Josh continues the adoption process alone. Charlotte O'Leary plays both Tyler, the adopted daughter, and her birth mother. James continues to invoke the audience, with some members given questions to ask when Josh and the mother meet that she is too emotional to ask herself.

This scene is the play's crescendo, and both O'Leary and Omari-Kinch are fantastic. You feel fear, grief and hope in each of their performances. They are staged on opposite sides of the Roundabout, Omari-Kinch remaining largely stationary, with O'Leary moving all around her half of the circle, a ball of nervous energy and adrenaline.

Movement is used powerfully throughout. It takes us through time, travelling through Abbie and Josh's relationship and later moving back in time through the beginnings of Tyler's birth parents. Movement also becomes a manifestation of Josh's grief, and you can see the pain flow through Omari-Kinch's body as he twirls around the set.

The play is filled with mirrors. Between Abbie and Josh's relationship and that of the birth parents, both basking in their love on a nightclub dance floor, though they then take such different paths. There is a comment on class, and how society can define our place in it. How Josh and Abbie's recreational drug use is so different to the birth mother's struggle with addiction. How they all just wanted love, safety, a nice home and a family. How easily one got pregnant when the other couldn't.

It ends as it began. Two people hopefully standing at a new front door. On The Other Hand, We're Happy is filled with hope, grief and hard questions. It is sure to stay with you.



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