Friday, 26 October 2012

The Happiness Machine

‘The Invisible Circus produces unique circus theatre experiences in a wide variety of unusual locations, from circus big tops and traditional theatres to site specific and promenade performances in disused industrial and historical buildings.’ The Invisible Circus

As a treat to ourselves for our hard work and fourth year endurance, we decided to take a trip to the circus. The Happiness Machine, seemed a promising title because we all deserved a smile on our faces.  Indeed it did make us grin, but it also made us ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and gasp and think and reflect.  I have been to plenty circuses in my time, and in my childhood years, the only things that I was left with were sticky fingers and popcorn leftovers stuck to my jumper. The Happiness Machine provides much more than just a showcase of bumbling clowns, silly gimmicks and cheap laughs. It is a symbolic and powerful performance criticizing how we have become slaves to the commercial world.

The main stage is taken over by a set of two-storey houses and their brightly lit windows gave us a sneak peek into the personal lives of the main characters whilst they are not on stage.  The first scene follows the story of an over-worked office worker as he teeters and staggers along a tight rope wire whilst trying to reach all of his deadlines. His skill becomes more visible as more work is piled into his inbox and it all becomes incredibly stressful. The choreography is a smart way of expressing how our work lives are at times overwhelming, all encompassing and exasperating.

The next few scenes are focused upon our consumerist society, sparkly ruby slippers and golden cleaning gloves are on all of the girl’s wish lists. Beautiful models take to the main stage, mincing around, lifting off into the heights of the tent on aerial hula hoops and show off the products in all of their glory.  But the poor old house wife is devastatingly let down after hoping and dreaming that the products will transform her into a new version of herself.  

In the final scene the couch-potato character finally appears on his favorite TV game show and the stage turns into a golden and glittery roller disco. His life is completed; he has won a chance to go through the ‘magic door’. The message ultimately comes down to the fact that we live in a sad world in which we dedicate much of our lives to television. We specifically put off social events because we have to be at home at 9pm to watch the next episode of our favorite soap.

It is quite a dismal reality, we can all relate to the scenes in some kind of way and I respect the Invisible circus’ attempt to provide a critical outlook on society. It is a smart technique to title the circus, The Happiness Machine because we really are happy. We are watching silly and entertaining stunts and tricks, our mouths wide open in amazement or in hysteria. The production copies the way in which television switches our minds off and subliminally forces us into zombie mode.  The final irony is that even though we are laughing, the happiness machine converts and transforms itself throughout the performance into the commercial marketing machine without us even realizing. 


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