Theatre review: Happy Hour, Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh

Intensity, poetry, and a fierce engagement with the crisis-ridden mood of the times.

Happy Hour, Pleasance Dome (Venue 23)

Happy Hour, Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh * * * *

These are the qualities that have won Europe-wide recognition for the Italian playwright and theatre-maker Cristian Ceresoli, since his first play La Merda burst on to the Edinburgh Fringe seven year ago; and this year, his company Frida Kahlo Productions – backed by a range of producers in Italy, Denmark and the UK – returns to the Fringe with a lurid two-hander set in a dystopian near future saturated in junk consumerism and internet surveillance, where an authoritarian government controls just about everything.

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The two main characters, played with huge energy and chutzpah by Silvia Gallerano and Stefano Cenci, are a young brother and sister whose family circumstances take a sudden turn for the better when their father – or perhaps their mother – is briefly smiled upon by the authorities.

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In Simon Boberg’s production, all this is powerfully conveyed not only through Ceresoli’s text, but also through Stefano Piro’s frenetic Italian-urban soundscape, based on the song Caracal by DJ Blue Cat, and through some memorable lighting shifts, on a simple set shaped like a cockpit.

The final effect is desperate and chilling, a fierce commentary on a society spinning helplessly towards barbarism; but it also blazes with the kind of poetic and theatrical energy that leaves audiences not depressed, but exhilarated and empowered.

Until 26 August