Samuel Becket’s Happy Days sheds his surrealist light on propped up relationships built on obligation. Winnie, play by Maxine Peake has come to accept the monotony of her everyday life, falling into a disconnecting routine that has kept her both motivated and stagnant. Highlighting mostly what not to do in long-term relationships, Beckett plays the audience’s agony aunt showing how a lack of communication, intimacy and spontaneity can bring about the slow…slow death of a relationship and a person’s sanity.
While a lot of positive affirmations can be said about committed relationships, The Royal Exchange opens the show to Winnie stuck in a mound of earth, buried up to her waist on an island surrounded by rubbish. Armed, literally while stranded with only a bag of basic beauty supplies, it quickly becomes apparent that Winnie's idea of a “happy day” is one in which her husband, Willie (played by David Crellin) is willing to speak to her.
The tour de force performance by Maxine Peake follows in the wake of The Exchanges renditions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Hamlet, in which Peake starred. Presently placed as Associate Artist for The Exchange, Peake continues to push for creative, personal narratives that are perfectly fitted for The Round.
Formed with a simple premise, Happy Days layers innuendo and surrealism onto the topic of death and disconnection in a believable and touching manner. Audiences are likely to pull from it several themes that strike a chord with them, shaped by the striking direction from Sarah Frankcom that will likely linger in the mind.