Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Happiness Patrol

The Kandy Man watches as Gilbert M looks for the Doctor.
‘The Happiness Patrol’, by Graeme Curry, is a studio-bound adventure which has a lot to like but fails to fully deliver on good ideas completely. Why? Well, most of it is down to production values sadly. It seems to have been a stretch for the production team to make everything as good as it needed to be, and sadly that increases the level of disbelief for the viewer.
The premise is good, and the casting on the whole is superb, supremely led by Sheila Hancock as Helen A, the ruler of the colony Terra Alpha, where it is law to be happy. Curry used Margaret Thatcher to base this character on, and Shelia Hancock’s portrayal is sublime. She has a pet called Fifi, is it a dog or a large rodent, or something in between? Unfortunately the puppet doesn’t stand up well enough and it’s hard to see how it could do much damage to a person if they had a hard implement in their hands.
In the waiting zone.
The Kandy man does her dirty work, using his ‘fondant surprise’ to execute people, and I for one loved the design although I may be in the minority there. I thought it worked very well, being made liquorice allsorts.
Joseph C overseas a 'fondant surprise'.
What lets the story down more than anything are the streets. Sad to say, but even though it all happens at night I don’t get the sense that people are outside. The surface is a shiny black – just the painted studio floor, which is a dead giveaway. The lighting is suitably dark, thank goodness, but yet it doesn’t give the impression of being outside. I don’t know if the waiting zone, for example, is meant to be in or outside. We don’t see people entering or leaving buildings at any stage, we don’t see the entrance for buildings, and that also is puzzling as a viewer.
The amazing Shelia Hancock as Helen A.
The Kandy kitchen and Helen A’s headquarters, on the other hand, are beautiful. Ronald Frazer and Harold Innocent as Jospeh C and Gilbert M, the two main male characters turn in wonderful performances. Some bits, mostly with Ace (no fault of Sophie Aldred) are a little squeamish, and whilst sometime McCoy really shines as the Doctor, he also made me squirm at other moments – especially at the forum when he was laughing. He has certainly improved, but moments where he drops the ball seem to creep out in every story.
Whilst much of the story may be about Thatcher’s Britain in the 1980s, the theme of people telling you to be happy is something most of us can relate to. Sometimes we are not happy. This is a truth. People will always tell you how to feel and what to feel and how to react to a situation. Don’t let them, the truth lies within.
A flawed but ultimately interesting story with wonderful guest
performances from those mentioned as well as Georgina Hale and Rachel Bell.


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