Melbourne Theatre Company
7 September 2012
Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
to 22 September
Even if she hasn't had much of late, 40-something Louise hasn't forgotten the thrill of wild and illicit sex, and the possibly-too-young Chinese masseur at the local mall is unintentionally finding her more-please spots and she's hoping for 'that' kind of happy ending.
In her new play Happy Ending, Melissa Reeves takes us away from hipster lanes and into a shopping mall where she understands and revels in the satisfaction of a bad latte and an instant McMassage. It's no barrista-made, freshly-roasted single-origin espresso with too-beautiful-to-stir foam art and time with an experienced therapist who wants to help you heal, but it's cheap and easy – and close enough can be damn good.
Nell Feeny (Louise) captures the frustration of a woman who's happy, but not satisfied. She has a good friend to talk to (Roz Hammond), a toddler who never cries and daily massages, but, of course, the musak and IKEA-screen facade of intimacy and exotic healing aren't enough.
Louise buys herself a new second-hand emerald ring, but she really wants the handsome young masseur, also called Lu, who's happy to take her money but awkward about seeing her tits. So, as her daily business isn't getting his attention, she creates her own fake massage business to find out how the Chinese do business.
With gloriously awkward scenes like taking Lu (Gareth Yuen) and his boss (hilarious Fanny Hanusin) to dinner in Little Bourke Street and subtitles that let us hear what her Chinese friends really think, Louise's quest is embarrassingly familiar – who hasn't made a fool of themselves in the quest for a great shag? – but embarrassment isn't as funny or as powerful as humiliation. Louise is always OK and there's room for more cringing and for danger, especially as it's hard to know what Louise stood to lose with her Lu obsession, which made it difficult to support or want to stop her quest for a happy.
With its comically blessed cast and director Susie Dee finding extra dark humour, Happy Ending is as satisfying as a McMassage. It's enjoyable and it really hurts when it hits the personal spots, but it feels like it should be more intimate and personal.
Photo by Melissa Cowan