Reasons to be Happy by Neil LaBute at the Hampstead Theatre


Neil LaBute is always writing about American couples, maybe it’s all he knows? Regardless, it is definitely his forte. ‘Reasons’ was no different as we meet Greg, Carly, Kent and Steph – four American 30-somethings trying to find happiness in life and love. Greg has previously been in a relationship with Steph, but now finds himself in a new one with her best friend Carly who is Kent’s ex wife. Greg and Kent had previously worked together and been friends. Steph then confesses to still loving Greg, and so begins a tale of one man trying to take control of his life, deciding who is the right girl for him, if either, and ultimately trying find happiness.

Filled with laughs and great lines, these characters play so well next to each other because they are all so different. Greg is the eternally casual and adult child unable to make decisions whilst Kent is the hot headed and charmingly dim, ex-husband. Carly is the single mother, trying to find a nice guy to love her, while Steph is a whirlwind, trying to get back the man she now realises was her perfect man.

Oddly staged in a shipping container that rotated to create either the break room of a factory or the smoking porch of a school, scenes were also played out in front of it to show a supermarket parking lot, a sports field and the outside of a restaurant. This at times seemed a bit clunky, but had they created these sets on a bigger scale on the Hampstead stage it probably would have cost a lot more, so maybe all that can be said of these staging decisions was that they were economical.

The most interesting thing that came out of this play was Greg’s response to having made Carly pregnant. His view on abortion represents a conservative American response to an unplanned pregnancy. There is a much bigger issue here surrounding the profound questions about new life which are only considered after the event. The casualness with which these characters approach relationships is entirely inconsistent with the gravity of the unplanned outcome which then forces people into making decisions before they truly know what they want from life.

Tom Burke, was exceptional as Greg. All his scenes seemed to carry the most energy. Lauren O’Neil was very good as his ex-girlfriend Steph as highly extrovert but wildly unpredictable character. Warren Brown and Robyn Addison were also very good as Kent and Carly respectively, however their first scene together seemed to fall a bit flat. Not that this mattered, as the whole cast picked it up afterwards.

This play was about the endless search for happiness that we all go through. Can it be found in a stable relationship? Or was Greg, in shooting off to New York, to pursue a full time teaching position he always wanted, looking first for self-fulfilment?  These were familiar but profound questions raised in a very entertaining, typical Neil LaBute night of theatre.

Highlight of the Show – Tom Burke’s performance. Also the older, hard of hearing patron next to us, who loved the play in a big way.

‘Reasons To Be Happy’ has been extended to the 23rd April at the Hampstead Theatre, with matinees at 14:30 and 15:00 and evening performances at 19:30.


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