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Happy Ending (Arcola Theatre)

The musical about the Big C opened at the Arcola Theatre earlier this week

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Company of Happy Ending
© Piers Foley

Cancer is not a laughing matter, or is it? Happy Ending, a musical by Daniel Krupnik Productions, wants to challenge what you know, and how you think, about the Big C. But it also wants to make you laugh, hysterically at times, and it doesn't disappoint on any of those fronts.

Running at Arcola Theatre until 7 March, Happy Ending is the English adaption of Anat Gov's last play before she passed of cancer aged 58. Originally performed in Tel Aviv, this play's message is universal - everyone should have the right to face this disease in whatever way they like.

Star of the stage Carrie Evans, played by Gillian Kirkpatrick, is the latest patient on a ward of women receiving chemo and she isn't happy to accept anything other than a fate of her own design. This causes some ruffles on the ward of long term sufferers and with the star of this show Dr Lynch, played by Oliver Stoney. When she questions his methods of treating the patients like they are not there, sparks fly between the spirited pair. Anyone who has ever been disgusted by the impersonal treatment they've received in hospital will enjoy her fury and laugh along.

The minimalist studio is transformed into a hospital ward where the kind nurse Fiona, Jodie Jacobs, and clinical Dr Lynch, nicknamed Dr House, along with his two underlings, run a tight ship with limited resources. Although it's a small space with a large company, the eight-strong cast get a chance to show off their singing and dancing skills with a wide selection of musical numbers in different styles including flamenco and gospel. Joe McCourt, playing one of the junior doctors, stands out for his flamboyant moves.

The play's author wanted to face up to cancer with this play and hoped to give the audience less fear about the disease and death. The team behind this production, including director Guy Retallack and choreographer Jordi Guitart, have done a fantastic job of capturing her wishes, leaving you with the residual feeling of joy about being alive. We all know this life won't last forever, and, due to excellent performances and direction, this show reminds us that even in the darkest moments there is always a reason to laugh.

Happy Ending runs at Arcola Theatre until 7 March 2015