Adelaide Fringe Review 2021: Very Happy Children with Bright and Wonderful Futures

Who:  Jopuka Productions (NSW) and South Australian Youth Arts (SA)
Where: Rumpus
When: Until 7 March
Tickets: It’s sold out already, but more info here

After the destructive fires of 2019-2020, Australia was reeling. COVID may have interrupted its momentum, but before the pandemic began the wave of School Strike 4 Climate seemed unstoppable. These bushfires took too much land and too many lives, they should have been a significant bookmark in our history that dominated the cultural conversation for months, but then the pandemic hit, and the momentum that was growing had to go on pause.

But it didn’t for the young people at Jopuka Productions and SAYarts, who have been working hard on producing their play, Very Happy Children with Bright and Wonderful Futures. This play was written by Joshua Maxwell from Jopuka, with Alan Grace and Jamie Hornsby.

Very Happy Children with Bright and Wonderful Futures follows the bushfire season through the eyes of five teenagers living regionally during this time. Narrated by the Earth and the Moon, we watch over Izzy and her gang of friends. The passionate Leila encourages the group to start a climate strike in their town centre, but when they join the protest in Sydney, their eyes are opened. And then when the fires start to head towards their home town, their lives are changed forever.

The play is set in what now feels like the distant past, following the teenagers as they live through the protest outside the Prime Minister’s house, through Scott Morrison insisting on shaking people’s hands, and when people were forced to evacuate to the beaches. Despite this, there are many funny moments. There is constant banter between the Earth and the Moon, and Preston Fernandez as Jace in particular stands out, his delivery of his sarcastic one-liners is smooth.

The set design is simple, but the use of lighting and smoke is very effective. In particular, once the fire starts and the stage is flooded with red light and smoke.

Supposed to launch in October 2020, the production crew of Very Happy Children with Bright and Wonderful Futures have finally made it to a sold out season. After countless Zoom rehearsals, it’s so lovely to be in an audience surrounded by family, friends, and supporters.

3 1/2 stars out of 5

— Natalie Carfora

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