Snelling is a masterful performer, She keeps the audience riveted throughout her one woman show. She leaps between singing, dancing, comedy, drama, roller skating and back again, and she makes it look easy. Her agility, playing both herself, and Lucky the Angel is particularly impressive. Simply from the impression on her face and the way she held herself you could tell which character she was. It’s this kind of clarity that gives the show polish.
Happy Go Wrong has a simple set, mostly made up of rolls of brown paper. These are interacted with effectively throughout the show, to convey overwhelm and suffering. Snelling unravels them, trying to run on the paper as it billows behind her, causing her to slip. As she loses momentum she is drawn into the piles of crumpled paper, becoming entangled and drowning beneath them.
For me the highlight is a segment about well-meaning commentators who offer advice on Snelling’s illness. Their hearts are in the right place, but their suggestions are more awkward than helpful. Snelling dressed in a rubbish bag, red high heels and a blonde wig, gyrates her way around the stage. The lights come up on the audience and she makes direct eye contact, asking us how we are, and yelling suggestions. It’s an uncomfortable scene. You can feel everyone in the audience squirming in their seat, looking at their feet. Several times the music winds down, only to come roaring back up. It feels never ending. We all just want to go back to sitting in the dark, anonymous without constant commentary and watchful eyes on us. Nothing could have conveyed the discomfort of unwanted attention more powerfully. I felt deep empathy for Snelling and the way her disease affects so much more than just her physical health.
I loved this show. It’s been a long time since I have been so affected by a performance, and I can still feel the lump in my throat, writing this a day later.
Happy Go Wrong is a glorious, captivating, celebration of life. It’s a look at pain that happens when things go wrong, but ultimately the good that triumphs in all that darkness. It is a sucker punch of gratitude that will hit you right in the gut. It will leave you drained, joyful and feeling so lucky to be alive.
Happy Go Wrong is playing at Te Auaha until Saturday 14th of March, at 8pm.