Hope Has a Happy Meal (NHB Modern Plays)

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Hope Has a Happy Meal (NHB Modern Plays)

Hope Has a Happy Meal (NHB Modern Plays)

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Perhaps the most notable example of that is in Lucy Morrison’s direction which is creative, intuitive, and dynamic. Felix Scott is hilarious as the smooth talking Koka Kola Airlines captain, who multi-roles as Wayne the murderous cop (Wayne incidentally gets a national holiday in his name by the end of the play). Nevertheless, Fowler never loses his finely tuned sense of humour, leavening out the more overwrought moments with a welcome wryness.

Laura Checkley’s charismatic protagonist makes a delightful pairing with Mary Malone’s Isla as the two negotiate a feverish escape involving train toilets and unlikely underground resistance volunteers, picking up a depressed but terribly sweet forest ranger (Nima Taleghani) along the way. In the Upstairs studio space, we arrive in the People’s Republic of Koka Kola, formerly the UK, a hilariously lurid police state where freedoms are acutely curtailed and consumer capitalism is totally dominant. That’s because there are so many ideas and commentary woven into each scene and character, some of which contradict each other, that none shines stronger than any other. He gives the actors lots to work with, and Royal Court Associate Director Lucy Morrison adds physical flair and playfulness to the piece.Now, Lor’s once thriving commune, not so subtly named ‘Strawberry Fields’, has failed, and its stalwart is suffering from alcohol addiction. With some well-judged cameo characters also providing heightened jabs at the slick emptiness of the service industry, played by the cast in sometimes triple duty (including a particularly versatile Felix Scott), Fowler’s playfully dark humour hits the spot.

Felix Scott gives a panoply of excellent performances, from a brutal cop to a hopeless ex-husband, and there is enough vim and vigour to the production that when Isla announces that “this is, like, the best adventure ever!

While the narrative is strong and as an audience member I found Hope has a Happy Meal engaging and fun, I did struggle with identifying its key messages. A surreal and frenetic quest through a hyper-capitalist country, Tom Fowler's play Hope has a Happy Meal premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in June 2023, directed by Lucy Morrison, in a co-production with SISTER. Despite Hope’s name, her story is tragic until the last as she leaves a streak of selfish destruction in her wake.

I really like the way that Fowler parodies the banal pronouncements of those in power, and his evident sympathy for the marginalized and the needy. When protagonist Hope lands at Nike International Airport after 24 years abroad, she knows everything has changed. Although the quest narrative plotting slackens a bit too much towards the end of this 100 minute show, there are plenty of good passages of dialogue, with some lovely humour. Isla’s sister was murdered by an abusive partner, and she is harbouring the couple’s child – on the run from relentlessly evil father, Wayne. The piece runs out of steam before Isla gets a meaningful conclusion, but to Malone’s credit she handles the final scene perfectly; and made me care more for Isla than any other character.This is a shame because it’s an intriguing conceit, and could have been developed further, but there are too many ideas packed into this play that don’t get fully realised, and Hope’s journey to find her son understandably takes precedence because it is a human – and relatable – story. Amaka Okafor is understandably incensed as Hope’s long time abandoned sister, who has turned to drink to drown her sorrows. Nima Taleghani is entirely loveable as Ali, the forest ranger who Hope and Isla discover trying to commit suicide because there is no forest to look after. The playtext has subtle references to the long tradition of new writing, by Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane and Simon Stephens — as well more recent plays by Alistair McDowall and Rory Mullarkey. They have everything from basic sourdoughs and baguettes to ciabatta, mini savoury filled focaccias and even Breton Kouign Amann.

But in the People's Republic of Koka Kola – a world of dwindling resources, corruption and corporate giants – what happens to Hope? The lorry driver’s enthusiastic love of country music, which he says has less to do with believing in God, and more about “being in darkness and finding the light”.You will be pleased to know that McDonald’s is referenced about a hundred times, though the Happy Meal toy is never realised. Early on in the 90-minute runtime, their journey feels like a cross between ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ – a sort of fantastical secular allegory for the world we’re essentially living in now.

  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
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