Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday explores the fears and hopes of those looking for direction at the start of their lives and those searching for peace at the end. The cast is made up of three young performers (Aileen Huynh, Izabella Yena and Matthew Connell) and three older performers (Jim Daly, Roger Oakley and Evelyn Krape), each wearing a set of headphones. Scripted from real life conversations, these interactions are played to the actors who recite every word, every sigh, every nuance. Presented by Roslyn Oades and collaborators, I’ve never seen a performance quite like this one. At times incredibly funny, poignant and tearful, the gamut of emotions on stage is varied and deep.
Matthew Connell’s account of a “his” wife’s decline into alzheimer’s and subsequent admission into a home is absolutely heartbreaking. It is irrelevant that he is a young man recounting an older man’s story – age is just a number – at the end of the day, it’s the stories which make up our lives that matter. As the performers jump from one narrative to the next, the audience can identify people they knew among the voices – an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, mother, father, grandparent – or perhaps they saw themselves in the 95 year old woman who continuously kept interrupting her friends and whose husband died on the bowling green.
Highlights include Jim Daly as an 18 year old girl giving a birthday speech, Aileen Huynh, Izabella Yena and Matthew Connell as three hilarious Italian elderly women and Aileen Huynh singing ‘I have a dream’ and forgetting the words. I’m not sure what it is about watching young people act like old people and older people acting like young people but its comedic gold.
The personal narratives in Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday are raw, real and slightly terrifying – eighteen year olds appear to have changed a lot since I was eighteen! To find something real is a rare gem – and that’s what this play is – a rare gem. Beautifully honest, it was an absolute delight to watch.
Reviewer attended on Thursday 29 July 2017, in the final performance of the brief season at the Riversude Theatre in Parramatta. For more information check out the Riverside Theatre website. Photo courtesy of Roslyn Oades and Riverside Theatre.