Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A poetic and deeply personal physical theatre work
Happy-Go-Wrong by Andi Snelling is an autobiographical, semi-abstract, solo physical theatre work about living with an invisible illness. It is a complex work, built on a single theme explored from various angles. It starts wide and eventually converges in a beautifully vulnerable finale that embodies the spirit of this show, which is Snelling's personal journey.
In the beginning, we are introduced to Lucky, a sweet, comical French angel on rollerblades, sent from heaven to earth to rescue Andi who is trapped behind the fourth wall. This character enjoys words and word play, and wins the audience over with her good-hearted fumbling about the stage as she philosophizes about her mission. In time, we are introduced to Andi, whose character starts out quite the opposite of Lucky - she has few words, and a lot of very precise physicality and action. There's a sense of urgency/immediacy and survival in her movements, which appear to be closely controlled by the music/beat. Both Lucky and Andi seem to be exploring in their own ways - Lucky is exploring abstract thoughts and ideas, while Andi seems to be navigating the difficult situations that have been thrust upon her, that she must learn how to respond to and live with.
Happy-Go-Wrong is a show of converging contrasts: heaven and earth, speech and silence, precise choreography and clowning, invisibility and visible vulnerability. It's a show about massive impact caused by something as tiny as a tick (Lyme disease). It uses humble props (things like brown paper rolls and bin liners) to convey piercing messages about struggles and resilience. It uses an incredible amount of physical energy, almost relentless and uninterrupted, to portray the struggles of being physically thwarted/disrupted by illness and changing circumstances. In the intimate Studio space at The Burrow, it packs in an astounding amount of movement - it almost feels like it shouldn't be possible.
This is a poetic expression of a deeply personal experience, and it is not intended to be universally relatable. There is a lot concealed within the words, imagery and metaphors of this show that will take thought and reflection to tease out, and some things will remain a mystery. This feels appropriate, given the nature of what is being explored. One of the most powerful moments in this show for me was when Snelling discovered, through her own experience of invisibility, a sea of invisible people around her. In this show, by bringing her own invisibility into the spotlight, Snelling helps create a space where the invisible people she discovered can also vicariously feel seen.
Happy-Go-Wrong is not a show about sending out strong messages or educating the public about invisible illness, although for those who wish to learn, this show certainly isn't devoid of takeaways. But it is essentially the artistic expression of one person's personal journey, experienced with intensity and shared with vulnerability, and you are invited to honour and receive the uniqueness of what is shared.