Happy Place

Dora Award-winning playwright Pamela Sinha's second play makes a stunning Soulpepper debut

Presented by Soulpepper Theatre Company
Written by Pamela Mala Sinha
Directed by Alan Dilworth

Caroline Gillis, Irene Poole & Pamela Mala Sinha in Happy Place. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Pamela Mala Sinha’s Happy Place is a lively and poignant exploration of trauma and depression through the prism of six unique women’s experiences. In the Soulpepper playbill insert, Sinha (who is also part of the cast) explains that the idea for Happy Place grew out of the script for Crash, her debut play that won Best New Play at the 2012 Dora Awards.

Sinha’s second play leaves no question that she is an incredibly gifted playwright. Happy Place takes the audience on a journey through stories of rape, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that seamlessly alternates between humour and harrowing emotion. To say this is no easy feat is an understatement.

Happy Place takes place entirely within the confines of an elite rehabilitation centre, focusing on the relationships between six female patients who inhabit different spaces across the racial and socio-economic spectrums. There must be something in the zeitgeist right now, because I can’t really talk about Happy Place without a nod to the smash hit Netflix series Orange Is The New Black. I have to admit that after long days, my companion and I were a little worried about the length of the play2 hours and 35 minutesand were hoping we’d be so absorbed in the lives of the characters that the time would fly by. It did.

Under the direction of Alan Dilworth, the cast delivers outstanding performances as Mildred (Diane D’Aquila), Joyce (Caroline Gillis), Samira (Oyin Oladejo), Rosemary (Irene Poole), Nina (Lisa Repo-Martell), Kathleen (Pamela Mala Sinha) and their rehab supervisor Louise (Deborah Drakeford). Performances were solid across the board, with D’Aquila’s firecracker Mildred and Repo-Martell’s skittish Nina standing out. The elegant, spare set with padded walls provides a perfect physical metaphor for the women’s internal struggles. What is so engrossing about the play, and what it has in common with OITNB, is how it dares the audience to understand its characters in all their complexity and imperfection. In a culture that constantly works to persuade women they must present a façade of perfection, it is liberating and refreshing to spend time with this ensemble of raw, rowdy and real womenall foibles on full displayand discover that we really like them.

Happy Place is as important as it is entertaining, eliciting many laughs while simultaneously doing the difficult work of humanizing depression and trauma. We can all recognize at least one of the characters portrayed and this, Sinha tells us, is the point. While the play leaves open the question of the efficacy of psychiatric treatment, it brilliantly lays bare the heart and soul of mental illness in a way we can all relate to and even laugh along with.

Happy Place runs until October 17 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit soulpepper.ca for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Thu, 2015-09-10 - Sat, 2015-10-17
Our rating:


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.