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Happy Ending - Arcola Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

DANIEL Krupnik Productions is presenting the UK premiere of Anat Gov’s Happy Ending at the Arcola Theatre – from February 2 (previews from January 28) to March 7, 2015.

Based on her personal experiences of living with and succumbing to cancer, Anat Gov’s play tackles difficult life choices, presenting with sincerity and matter-of-fact humour the treatment of illness in all its highs, lows, dignities and absurdities.

Translated from Hebrew and adapted by Hilla Bar and with music by composers Shlomi Shaban and Michal Solomon, Happy Ending is about the nature of courage, the role of treatment and the choices that we didn’t know we could make, touching all aspects of living with illness and teaching that the question isn’t “to be or not to be”: it’s how to be.

Carrie Evans, a theatre star in her late forties, arrives at an Oncology clinic to begin a series of treatments to prolong her life. From her interactions with doctors and talking to other patients who will try anything from drugs with unpronounceable names to horse’s milk to cannabis smoking, she finally reaches liberation in her realisation that there is always a choice.

Israeli playwright Anat Gov died from cancer aged 58 in 2012, four years after she was diagnosed with the disease. Happy Ending won the Nissim Aloni award for Original Writing in 2011 and the Gottlieb and Hannah Rosenblum Performing Arts Award in 2012.

Happy Ending is directed by Guy Retallack, whose previous credits include musicals Thrill Me (Tristan Bates Theatre and Charing Cross Theatre) and The Last Session (Tristan Bates Theatre), both of which were nominated for WhatsOnStage Awards. He recently directed Macbeth at Bridge House Theatre (nominated for two Offies and two Broadway World Awards including Best Director), where he is co-artistic director alongside his wife, Rachel Tucker.

Talking about Happy Ending, Retallack said: “It’s a deeply moving play, written with acuity and wit that is unique in its treatment of a subject most of us would rather not talk about. It goes through a whole range of emotions and is frequently savagely funny. Above all the play, often in the most surprising way, challenges our perceptions about what is acceptable, and seeks to make us think again about the choices we think lie before us.”

Happy Ending is choreographed by Paul Harris, who is best known for Catherine Zeta-Jones’ laser scenes in Entrapment and for the wand combat sequences in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. For theatre, he’s worked as choreographer and movement director on shows including The Entertainer and Gaslight (Old Vic), Liberty (Shakespeare’s Globe), and The Importance of Being Ernest (Theatre Royal Bath). In 2008, he won the Carl Alan Award for choreography.

The cast of Happy Ending includes Gillian Kirkpatrick, whose recent credits include American Psycho (Almeida Theatre), Chess (Union Theatre), and the Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd (Adelphi Theatre).

Also in the cast are Beverly Klein (original London cast of Les Miserables, the Witch in the Royal Opera House’s Into the Woods) and Jodie Jacobs, whose West End credits include Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Serena in Fame and Joanne in Rent.

They are joined by Thea Beyleveld, Andrea Miller, Oliver Stoney and Gemma Wardle, with further casting to be announced.

Happy Ending is designed by Simone Romaniuk, with musical direction by Tom Turner, lighting by Richard Williamson and sound by David Glover. Medical adviser is Dr. Dana Niry.

Happy Ending is suitable for ages 13+.

Tickets: £19, £15 concessions, Pay What You Can Tuesdays, £17 (£14 concs) Wednesday matinees and Saturday matinees 7 and 14 only. To book, call the box office on 020 7503 1646 or visit www.arcolatheatre.com/.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 3pm.

Running Time: 110 minutes.

Also at the Arcola: the London premiere of peddling (March 4 to March 28, 2015).