Happy Dave

Oli Forsyth

Smoke & Oakum

Pleasance Courtyard

From 03 August 2016 to 29 August 2016

Rating: ****

Review by Amy Yorston

Is rave dead? Not if there are lost souls looking to party!

Dave is bored, he has a job in advertising, a big office and smart suit but he is not happy. He is surrounded by millennials with London flats, gym memberships and Prosecco-filled Fridays who seemingly have it all. It is though, an illusion, they are just as bored as him.

On one level, Happy Dave is a sitcom-esque tale of one man’s journey of rediscovery but on another it's a biting critique of the sanitised life that most young people believe they need to lead. With student debt, high rent and an ever-competitive job market, these hip young things are trapped by the very opportunities that Dave’s generation "would have killed for".

Reflecting that youth culture in the '90s was a reaction to being "lost in the desert", the script neatly makes the comparison that today’s youth are lost in a jungle of possibilities and expectations. Being a DJ at an Illegal rave might not be the obvious way forward but the point is that by bringing excitement and a touch of danger into the lives of his merry band of followers, Happy Dave enables them to really feel and live for the moment.

Leading the cast as Dave is the likeable Andy McLeod who injects the right level of world-weariness into the frustrated character before getting caught up in a self destruct sequence. We see his earlier musical promise and excitable delusion through flashbacks in which Oli Forsyth (also playwright) offers a young Dave, who is only interested in making music, already at odds with a changing world.

Helen Coles doubles effectively as Jess and Molly with her growing exasperation in the latter role particularly touching. Planted in the present, Lucy Hagan-Walker gives an assured performance as the straight-talking Steph and Kiell Smith-Bynoe creates a comedically downbeat Alex.

With some cracking one-liners and a pumping soundtrack, this tight-knit cast believably move from cynical bystanders to party organisers formulating grander and grander plans. As the risks increase, friendships are tested and Sam Carrack’s direction ensures that the tension builds slowly.

There's a fine line between doing something exciting or reckless and Happy Dave shows both sides of the coin.