Going into my second mental health musical at this Fringe, I was slightly less apprehensive. And there turned out to be no reason for apprehension at all. Putting on a feel-good show about depression, though it sounds like an oxymoron, is in fact perfectly possible and, in the case of A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), can be very well done.
In Super Happy Story, we follow Sally McKenzie, who always believed she would ‘change the world’, over ten years from age 16 to 26. She discovers she has depression, won’t accept it, learns to accept it, gets help, gets better, gets
worse again… and all the while is a relatable, endearing character played convincingly and energetically by Madeleine MacMahon. Sophie Clay and Ed Yelland, who, with brilliant character acting skills play her mother, boss, best friend, boyfriend and more, are equally enthusiastic and at times hilarious. And this show is very funny in parts – except, as the overly cheery first number admits, “the parts about depression”. Those are handled with sensitivity and convey a powerful message – if you’re struggling with mental health, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not your fault, it’s okay to ask for help and you will get better.
The production has a fittingly flexible studio feel – posters announcing which ‘chapter’ of Sally’s life we are currently in form the backdrop, clothing racks hung with bits and pieces of costumes line the stage and musician Matthew Floyd Jones sits to one side with his keyboard. The music of the show is uncomplicated and the singing is not amazing, but the actors’ commitment is admirable and the emotions are conveyed well.
To me and, probably, to many in this festival audience, the message of this production was nothing new. However, this show is still important. In an entertaining, thought-provoking way, it reaches out to us – and if just one audience member goes and gets the help they think they might need after seeing it, it will have done its job.
A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) is playing Pleasance Courtyard until August 28th . For more information and tickets, see https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/super-happy-story- about-feeling- super-sad.