Theatre review: On the Other Hand, We're Happy, Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh

Rarely amid this year's Fringe programme will such an uplifting and positively joyful play come with such a thick side order of tragedy.

On the Other Hand, Were Happy, Roundabout at Summerhall (Venue 26)

On the Other Hand, We're Happy, Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh * * * *

Abbie and Josh are a charming, exuberant and very real couple setting out on life together, setting up in a new house and hoping to turn it into a home for their family. Yet Josh is unable to have children, and so the pair decide to adopt; or rather, they enlist us to help them decide.

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Playwright Daf James' three-hander for Theatr Clwyd and Paines Plough is a fairly conventional piece whose greatest stylistic device in general is the manipulation of timelines, yet the moment at the start where the couple request that the audience help them vote on whether or not and under which circumstances they should adopt is a perfectly-weighted device to draw us into the grave and life-changing decision-making which this undertaking involves. It's both this neat twist, and to a greater extent the powerful and very likeable performances from Charlotte Bate and Toyin Omari-Kinch, which place us right in the heart of the story; and when the shock of an unexpected bereavement hits them, it lands in the hearts of the audience like a hammer blow.

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Yet the adoption process has begun, and after a period of reflection it's continued with, the sense of love which has no other outlet after loss palpable in the air. The child's mother - Kelly, played with humour and sensitivity by Charlotte O’Leary – is a hard-bitten young mum from a Welsh estate whose brash joking hides a love and kindness which has been almost beaten from her by violent partner Liam. She requests a meeting before her daughter goes, and her own grief in the face of her inability to care for her daughter is palpable. As directed by Stef O’Driscoll, this is a simple piece which makes complex and touching points about the many ways in which parental love can manifest.

Until 24 August