Hiding behind your 'Happy Place'? Local play highlights dangers of toxic positivity

The play explores the complex world of media and the pressure to always wear a happy face

Happy Place, starring Jo Tan, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, and Jamil Schulze, runs 4-7 May at Gateway Theatre.
Happy Place, starring Jo Tan, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, and Jamil Schulze, runs 4-7 May at Gateway Theatre. (PHOTO: Gateway Theatre)

Ah, the Happy Place – the magical destination that can turn any frown upside down! We all have a happy place that we can escape to in our minds when times get tough. But what happens when our happy place becomes more of a crutch than a refuge? Could it lead us down a dangerous path?

This is the thought-provoking question that the play "Happy Place" tackles head-on, directed by the Chong Tze Chien and running from Thursday to Sunday (4th to 7th May), at Gateway Theatre in the heart of Bukit Merah.

With a cast of talented actors, including Jo Tan, Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, and Jamil Schulze, this dark comedy explores the media industry's complex world and the pressure to always put on a happy face – even when things get dangerous.

When positivity becomes toxic

Jo Tan's character, Val, is a beloved deejay on "The Happy Place" morning radio show on One One Oh Point. On air, Val is a bubbly ball of energy, always ready with a joke or a laugh to brighten her listeners' day. But off the mic, she's a bit more subdued and reveals her true colours as a seasoned presenter with a somewhat compassionate heart.

Val's character is captivating because of her persistent need to put a positive spin on everything, even when it's not appropriate. She forces her former best friend, Estee (played by Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai), who is a political Instagram poet, to focus only on the positive. This includes trivialising Estee's insecurities about her double chin and ignoring the potential catastrophic consequences of the "Evanescence" situation. Val's desire to make everything seem like rainbows and unicorns is a recurring theme in the play.

However, as the play progresses, we see the toxic effects of her constant need to be happy and positive. Val dismisses Estee's struggles and disregards the danger of the cataclysmic event that could make people disappear, all to maintain her "happy place" facade. In the end, her need to put a positive spin on everything has harmful consequences for herself and those around her.

Val herself says, "Sometimes I play the idiot so people can laugh, and sometimes I am an idiot." This pressure to keep up appearances and always be happy is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy. Ultimately, Val's true emotions come flooding out, overwhelmed by the weight of her own facade.

While it is great to have a happy place to escape when things get tough, it is important to remember that sometimes it is okay not to be okay. We need to acknowledge our true feelings and not to let the pressure always to be positive consume us.

The "Happy Place" reminds us, sometimes is a great reminder that the path to true happiness sometimes requires a little bit of honesty and vulnerability.

If you're looking for a thought-provoking play that will make you laugh and think, be sure to check out "Happy Place".

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