Skip to content


Colour Me Happy
Published on Wednesday, 17 August 2011

4 stars

Zoo (venue website)
5-14, 16-21, 23-27 Aug, 5:10pm-6:10pm
Reviewed by Sarah Hill

 Parental Guidance. Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

An inflatable chair, a padded gilet and a slinky. For young women of a certain age, these were all once essential bedroom items; trappings of a 90s childhood which bring back a flood of cherished memories. Colour Me Happy, a devised piece from experimental company Group 13, sees three female performers nostalgically re-living these years gone by. This is certainly the guilty pleasure that is purports to be, but may prove a little too sugary sweet to suit everyone’s tastes.

Between them, the company take turns to assume the role of Dot – a little girl growing up against the colourful backdrop of the Spice Girls phenomenon and their girl power mantra. Mapping out her experiences of life across a stage resembling a prep school play room, the performers lead the audience through a series of inventive audio/visual vignettes, many of them wordless, from the depths of Dot’s glorious imagination to the very cusp of her adolescence.

The piece focuses more on the simple and universal theme of childhood than it does on the individual: though Dot is likeable, she is less a 3D character than an ‘every-girl’ figure, through which we may experience a child’s understanding of the world. This is also a piece about a specific time from a specifically female viewpoint, blending evidently autobiographical elements with references to 90s pop-culture. In this way, Colour Me Happy doesn’t so much tell a story as evoke an experience; for me, that was perfectly fine, but it might frustrate other audience members in search of a stronger narrative thread.

Unfortunately the premise of the piece was not immediately apparent – the first ten minutes left me chuckling at its unselfconscious silliness, but feeling confused. As it gained momentum and took on a more definite shape, I was able to engage more thoroughly in Dot’s journey, but the realisation dawned a little too late.  Yet in the end, the piece does very well in what it sets out to do – to capture life from a child’s perspective. There is a genuine sense of play, spontaneity and abandonment in the performances, which speak volumes of a certain wide-eyed innocence and the unrestrained joy of living.

Interestingly, it has all the ingredients of a children’s show – gentle humour, an infectiously cheerful tone, plenty of energy and a simple structure – blended in with witty references to popular culture with much appeal to an adult sensibility (or, at least, those old enough to contextualise them). To me, this was largely unproblematic and should be taken as high praise; it is testimony to the talent of these performers that some of the wordless sections were so brilliantly playful I feared they would be wasted on the average adult’s limited imagination.

The most powerful sections, for me, were precisely these moments without dialogue – here the performers seemed at their most confident, manipulating a profusion of props around them in order to illustrate a series of emotional states. I particularly enjoyed the use of bubble wrap to evoke an underwater experience. In general, however, the piece was inconsistent in its appeal. Some of the sparse dialogue, particularly the narration, was slightly clunky – partly due to the piece’s very success in communicating so much though the use of music, voice/over and visuals. The ending also came as an oddly jarring and unsatisfying conclusion lacking the straightforward closure I would have liked.

So Colour Me Happy is not without its flaws, but the likeability of the performers and their endearing enthusiasm won me over to this little gem. Amongst all the block-buster, commercial fare you’ll find increasingly at Edinburgh, there are a few companies that remain genuinely on the theatre’s neglected Fringe.  Group 13 are one of them.

<< Number 52   4.3 Miles From Nowhere >>