Happy Hour, currently on at Tobacco Factory Theatre Bristol, is like a scene from a soap opera. From the off we know there are tensions in Kay’s life, an unanswered phone call, hurried gasps from an inhaler between large gulps of wine.
Kay is perhaps in her late 20’s or 30’s, she is waiting for her mum and brother to arrive to a room above a pub. We then discover, as her mum Anne enters carrying her husbands ashes in an old shoe box, that the pub belongs her Kay’s Mum and recently deceased Dad.
There is a terse exchange before the third character Tom enters where we learn that Tom, Kay’s brother, is an aid worker of some kind and has flown back especially to say goodbye to his dad and to hear the reading of the will. Having missed the funeral, this is an important moment for Tom and his family, but not for the most obvious reasons.
Happy Hour is a bit like Abigail’s Party, the classic ’77 play by Mike Leigh. It is very much a fly on the wall drama about family life and social etiquette; parents mess up their children by trying to give them a good education and build ambition, children don’t like their parents to have hopes and dream of achieving more than parenthood.
Happy Hour is more focussed on a very specific moment, and is stripped back as far as possible which in a way is good. I was kept engaged the whole time, and there was a lot of comedy in Anita Vettesse’s script. But I didn’t feel strongly connected to the characters, because the script didn’t quite give the actors long enough to grow the depth required.
Tom, played by Stephen McCole, is the strongest character and just over half way through has a monologue where he really gives context to the play and what the absent father was like when he was alive. Without which, it was difficult to piece together the complex emotional relationships in this family.
It was a short play and fun night which started with a scrumptious Pieminister Pie, as part of Oran Mor’s A Play A Pie and Pint series.