Happy Dave, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Dave’s a middle aged advertising executive from Yorkshire, now living and working in London. Amidst his humdrum life, he longs for his youth as a pioneering rave DJ playing to thousands of people, running events up and down the country with his ex, Molly. An invitation by a well-meaning colleague half his age leads Dave back onto the path he abandoned and his transformation into a cultural messiah to a generation focused on careers, property and conforming.

Oli Forsyth has a great script on his hands, despite a hint of judgmental condescension towards millennials. The script states they waste their lives on jobs they hate, have no cultural or creative identity and surround themselves with material possessions to make their empty lives feel full. Dave first aggressively voices this opinion, but his four comrades eventually agree that their generation is distinctly lacking in rebellion. Though this is certainly true of some people, others may find genuine happiness in their high earning, corporate lifestyles.

The opportunity to see Dave as a young man gives the story and character added depth, and there’s good continuity despite Dave being played by two different actors. The dialogue has a natural flow, though a few spoken word monologues feel out of place even though they are well written. There’s room to extend the story after the well-crafted, current climax that shows Dave hasn’t really changed his attitude since he was a young man willing to sacrifice everything for the scene. Lengthening would solve the issue of the abrupt ending by adding a dénouement that answers any questions about the consequences the present Dave has to face.

The ensemble of five is strong; they capture the anger and frustration innate to those trapped in unsatisfying lives. Andy McLeod as the present day Dave is excellent, with clear character choices and constantly bubbling rage that dissolves into bliss when raving or DJing. There’s little genuine warmth between the present day gang, which, although indicative of how self-absorbed millennials are, is unsatisfying to watch. Younger Dave (Forsyth) and Molly (Helen Coles) have some genuinely lovely moments, though a few are a touch overacted.

Happy Dave is remarkably polished for the Fringe, and a dynamic storyline with plenty of emotional rage effectively maintains attention. It’s certainly worth catching.

Happy Dave runs through 29th August.

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