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Hope Has a Happy Meal (NHB Modern Plays)

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But in the People’s Republic of Ko k a Kola – a world of dwindling resources, corruption and corporate giants – what happens to Hope? Now, Lor’s once thriving commune, not so subtly named ‘Strawberry Fields’, has failed, and its stalwart is suffering from alcohol addiction. If the show wasn’t such fun you could dismiss this as naive wishful thinking, but that would be to underrate the power of being kind in everyday life. That’s absolutely fine, by the way, but I can’t help feeling that with characters this strong and a story this interesting, it might be a small, missed opportunity.

Along the way, Wizard of Oz style, they meet a scarecrow – sorry – forestry worker (Ali) who is depressed at losing their job when it’s revealed Facebook Forest will be cut down and replaced by flats. The second half is a skip through the months living together in the commune, dealing with humorous practicalities of keeping a hostage in the basement (someone’s got to empty the bucket), and watching Hope rekindle her frosty sisterly relationship with Lor. There are some fantastical moments, including a bizarre gameshow hosted by a makeshift Ronald McDonald which doesn’t add anything, and some soap opera drama cliches are thrown into the plot (think Chekhov’s gun) which don’t feel fully earned. That Hope goes on such a visually transformative personal journey in the space of an hour and forty minutes is credit to Checkley’s physical theatre talents, her body absorbing the tension in each scene as we build to the play’s violent crescendo.However, there is an underlying unease in this hyper-capitalist world, and a lurking menace that threatens the lives of all of Hope’s companions. The reveal to Hope’s backstory isn’t as interesting as the shenanigans that preceded it, and we never discover what has motivated her to come back at this particular moment.

He gives the actors lots to work with, and Royal Court Associate Director Lucy Morrison adds physical flair and playfulness to the piece. In this world, the old alternative communes have vanished, forests have been poisoned into sick wilderness, and Ronald McDonald bestrides the globe. She dominates scenes in the most unsuspecting of ways, empathy and sincerity etched across her face. Nima Taleghani is entirely loveable as Ali, the forest ranger who Hope and Isla discover trying to commit suicide because there is no forest to look after.Hope is helped not only by Isla, but also by a random train passenger, a trucker and of course by Ali. Not only that, Fletcher managed to feature a baby crying, frequently, without it irritating me; quite the feat! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show at The Royal Court with a weak cast, and Hope has a Happy Meal is no different. This show contains strobe, haze, smoking on stage, flashing lights, very loud and sudden noise, including gun shots, strong language and staged violence that some may find distressing. All we end up learning is that everyone is finding life hard right now, what with climate change, fascists and whatnot.

But her visit becomes considerably more dramatic after she meets waitress Isla (Mary Malone) – who’s fleeing with her baby nephew from his father, a police officer who she says killed her sister – and a suicidal, soon-to-be-former park ranger, Alex (Nima Taleghani). The playtext has subtle references to the long tradition of new writing, by Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane and Simon Stephens — as well more recent plays by Alistair McDowall and Rory Mullarkey. Isla’s sister was murdered by an abusive partner, and she is harbouring the couple’s child – on the run from relentlessly evil father, Wayne. This comes into play when a guilt-stricken Hope dreams about an uncannily familiar red, white and yellow clown – complete with hilariously bleeped out name – aggressively judging her failings. The People’s Republic of Koka Kola is a dystopian capitalist cess pit – a country which used to be a democracy and is now dominated by the most powerful brands representing the most extreme form of capitalism.When protagonist Hope lands at Nike International Airport after 24 years abroad, she knows everything has changed. We don’t want to spoil anyone’s experience of a new play at the Royal Court and therefore we avoid giving too much away when promoting the play.

The lorry driver’s enthusiastic love of country music, which he says has less to do with believing in God, and more about “being in darkness and finding the light”. The piece runs out of steam before Isla gets a meaningful conclusion, but to Malone’s credit she handles the final scene perfectly; and made me care more for Isla than any other character. Photograph: Helen Murray View image in fullscreen Cheerfully fluorescent unease … Laura Checkley in Hope Has a Happy Meal. More surprising moments could have been created had there been more time, space and dramaturgy for Fowler to utilise his clearly vivid imagination. Lighting design by Anna Watson is equally impressive, with LED giving neon vibes and more haze than a Jimi Hendrix concert.The play does a decent job at attempting to answer some of those questions, where others are left lingering. Ali and Isla fall for each other and along the way the threesome find themselves unwittingly kidnapping Wayne – it turns out none have the stomach for cold blooded murder.

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