Online nostalgia and queer joy combine beautifully in Happy Meal at Brixton House
“I was born in exactly the right body. You were born in exactly the right body. These journeys we’ve taken were the journeys we were meant to take in order to find ourselves and maybe even each other…”
There’s a sweetness at the heart of Tabby Lamb’s Happy Meal that makes it extremely moreish, far more satisfying than the empty calories of its namesake. At just a (highly engaging) hour long, it delivers the kind of endorphin rush that feels all too rare in the theatre, tipping us out onto the streets of Brixton in a cloud of queer joy. In that respect, you can see why the show was a hit at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
There’s also a depth to it which means it hits home harder than you might expect. Bette and Alec’s friendship is birthed online in the dial-up era and then progresses through the different social media platforms of the moment and though we’re unsure if they might ever meet IRL, we’re left in no doubt that this is a connection that is as profound as any in the ‘real’ world. In some ways, it is a relationship that is stronger for the safe space it offers.
For they are both navigating the realities of being trans. Al forthcoming about the years-long process of transitioning that they’re determined to take, Bette finding it more difficult to share her self despite the most gregarious digital presence. And their friendship isn’t always smooth sailing at all, there’s a real sense of how deeply you can hurt and be hurt by those you trust, even online. Lamb evokes an impressive emotional range in miniature here.
Their dialogue is the key, splicing noughties pop cultural references with hard-won wisdom (that quote above is killer in its delivery). And matched with a peerless production from Jamie Fletcher, Ben Stones’ perfectly realised set design housing endlessly inventive video work from Daniel Denton, the production captures so much of the detail of living life online (with interrupted connections) and how that can impact on re-entering IRL.
Sam Crerar and Tommi Bryson deliver great performances too. From penguin-suited welcomes to Patrick Wolf-inspired joy, it’s hard not to get swept up in this evolving relationship. You feel their differing vulnerabilities acutely, even when they’re not being their best selves, and there’s such sincerity in the authencity that they bring to the smallest details (‘holding hands’ on the bus – be still my heart!), the show can’t help but make you happy. And lord knows we need more queer stories like this to go with the trauma more frequently programmed.