Review: How to Be Amazingly Happy! by Victoria Firth

A frank and funny look at searching for identity while feeling as though time is running out

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 06 Aug 2018
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How to be Happy

There’s the outer and inner of Victoria Firth’s persona in How to Be Amazingly Happy! The former holds up placards brightly announcing the ways she’s going to transform her life at 46 years old; the latter, in whispered voiceover, is full of doubt and uncertainty.

These two sides work nicely in counterpoint as the show explores Victoria’s creeping anxiety that life is passing her by. There’s darkness at the edges of her determined progress through taking up running, tap or clowning – a sense of time running out.

The bright, simple aesthetic is almost childlike as Victoria chats about the cost of buying running gear (no one calls it "jogging" anymore). The ironic contrast is that of a plastered-on smile. It puts into stark relief her quiet, subdued references to IVF.

The show taps into that complicated guilt that sometimes accompanies feeling life has dealt you an unfair hand. The boxes from which Victoria unpacks her next self-improvement project are an angry red. At one point, she tips them out in frustration.

There’s something refreshingly frank in the uncertainty. There are no grand gestures. Whether showing us her new sports bra or quietly talking about breaking up with her girlfriend, Victoria comes to us open-handed – funny, a bit lost and sometimes angry.

But the show itself also feels like a work-in-progress. Not all the joins fit. A song about wanting a dog barely works once, let alone twice, with audience participation. How to Be Amazingly Happy!’s sprawl is both a strength and a drawback.