Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Happy As Larry

Shaun Parker and Company
Dance Touring Partnership
Northern Stage, Newcastle
(2011)

Happy As Larry production photo

If you had to choose one word to sum up Happy As Larry (How silly is that? Sum up something complex in one word? But we do it all the time!), that word would be "eclectic".

As we left the theatre, my companion (herself a dancer) and I spontaneously said to each other, "Did you see bits of...?" and listed ballet, breakdance, contact improvisation, roller skating, contemporary dance, and also mentioned other things we were reminded of, for example, DV8 and, in particular, To Be Straight With You. The movement language ranges from tiny gesture to the acrobatic, from the graceful to the almost grotesque.

If that sounds as though we were being critical, even condemnatory, that was far from being the intention, for what Shaun Parker and his company have done is to fuse a wide range of styles and approaches to dance into a coherent whole which amuses, fascinates and always delights..

And it suits the subject matter, for each dancer represents a different personality type - the Perfectionist, the Giver, the Performer, the Tragic Romantic, the Observer, the Devil’s Advocate, the Optimist, the Boss and the Mediator - a system of typology which is much used in business management to examine the dynamics of the workplace, and each has his/her own movement language.

And each seeks happiness in his/her own way. It's an elusive quest - Larry doesn't get to be happy all the time: in fact, the piece is a little dark in places, but it's the seeking that is important, and for us, the audience, the important thing is that we share in that quest - and, perhaps, what we learn about ourselves and others. There were many amusing moments, evoking chuckles and even outright laughter, but the interesting thing is how different people in the audience reacted differently: there was never a point when everyone was amused.

What is also interesting is that there were a number of school parties in the audience, both boys and girls, and they were all held by the 75 minute piece. And that is hardly surprising, for the piece flows constantly from one "type" to another, with consequent changes in movement and music, a shifting dynamic which continually holds the audience's interest - making them happy!

The UK tourn of "Happy as Larry" ended in Newcastle.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan