A Guide to Unhappiness

A Guide to Unhappiness
Written and performed by Sunny Leunig and Jono Burns. Music Performed by Sara Retallick. Director: Anne Browning. Produced by Kylie Risson. The Loft, Lithuanian Club, North Melbourne. 9 to 13 October at 6.45pm.

This delightful funny and moving fifty-minute performance comes highly recommended by me as fully entertaining, lyrical, funny and perceptive.  It could be equally at home in the Comedy Festival as the Fringe.

The show opens with a family film projected onto a sheet then the lively Jono Burns introduces Sunny Leunig with energetic enthusiasm and then Burns introduces Sara the Magician’s assistant.  She is then, astonishingly, cut in half by Leunig.  Sara Retallick presents as a dour young woman (sad sack Sara), as an amusingly contrasting foil when required and then works as the main musician.

Although the overall narrative, a personal story from Leunig, has a profound universality about it, there are some thin moments and comments that come across as glib adlibbing that could be more carefully scripted.

Directed with a very competent and even hand by Anne Browning it does slump a little in energy and focus at times.  It is not perfectly tuned like a performance by Ms Browning or her partner Peter Houghton.  This, I sense, is more due to the relaxed (generational) attitude of the performers than the expectations of a director.  Primarily it is an opportunity for the three young talented and experienced, but as yet not particularly disciplined, performers to further explore the heady complexities of working with an audience.  Having said that I also want to say their work is lovely.

There is much magic in A Guide to Unhappiness as well as serendipity and syncopation in the story and performed magic by Sunny Leunig, who is without question an interesting young person.  Mostly this magic is surprising and stunning, with the exception of some clumsy work early on that could be put down to nerves. As for costume (Chloe Greaves), Leunig’s pants could be a bit more stylish and indeed clean. There are some delightful effects such as the projection of images on a suitcase lid (Joseph Leunig Noster) and the set prop of a tarot card.

My criticisms are superficial and designed to be helpful. 

Catch this one if you can it is excellent.

Suzanne Sandow

Image: Sunny Leunig in A Guide to Unhappiness.

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