Review: Happy Days, Crucible

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Happy Days, Crucible

IF you ever thought your life was bland spare a thought for Winnie and Willie, living in a large mound in the desert while her husband occupies a nearby hole.

Welcome to Samuel Beckett’s absurd yet poignant snapshot of a life beyond ordinary; a thinly-veiled comment on the mundane existence that frames so many daily lives and brought into sharp focus like the magnifying glass Winnie uses to examine writing on her toothbrush.

Buried up to her torso in ballast – and later up to her neck – wonderful Irish actress Pauline McLynn (Father Ted/Shameless) saves what could easily be a quirky yet numbing affair with chatter and an array of facial expressions that belie but ultimately betray the sadness Winnie’s life has become.

Curiously, penned while he waited to marry, Beckett gives no reason for the couple’s predicament but it is clear from Winnie’s constant chatter she had a more ‘normal’ life with Willie (a mono-syllabic Peter Gowen).

She fusses over random objects in her trusty black bag – a revolver among them – in between praying, singing and being thankful for her not a lot. There are flashes of sadness, not bitterness, even when persistently awoken by a bell to face her day. Yet Winnie remains a heroine if only for her joy of small things in the face of apparent purgatory.

With sharp direction by Sheffield Theatres resident Jonathan Humphreys, Happy Days continues until June 4.

David Dunn