Life´s Not So Sunny in Sunnyville

Review from Fringe Festival Praha 2011

Helen Ford

Written by Helen Ford Published on 30.05.2011 11:03:58 (updated on 30.05.2011) Reading time: 2 minutes

Sunnyville is described as a comic exploration of the world of exclusive, ‘secure´ residential estates. This Steel Dragon Theatre production explores, with a fairly predictable plot, the Truman Show-like world of middle-class middle-America and that society´s approach to those who are ‘other´.

The play is set in Sunnyville: a serene yet soulless world where men work, women clean and boys play cowboys and Indians. Every. Single. Day.  Each morning starts (set to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ‘Hi-Ho´ music) with neighbours golfer Dick and office worker Bob greeting each other:

“How´s the handicap Dick?”

“She´s still in the house!….How are you finding the office?”

“I turn left at the traffic lights!”

Ha ha.

The inhabitants of Sunnyville follow their set routine each day, until the new neighbours arrive.  Not used to a break in routine, longstanding Sunnyville inhabitants are upset by the newcomers by being ‘different´.  What could be more different, I hear you ask, than mute characters dressed in Hawaiian print pyjamas with brightly coloured flower-pots on their heads?

Needless to say, these ‘outsiders´ are ostracised from day one. They are bullied and tormented and are the completely innocent victims of the utter bitchiness of middle-class suburbia. It all gets a bit Lord of the Flies at the end, and makes for fairly uncomfortable viewing.

Sunnyville falls short of its clear aims, however. It is set up to be funny and then saddening. The audience is expected to find the sterile routine and set-piece phrases hilarious and to later be appalled by the treatment of the ‘others´ at the hands of this ‘sunny´ community.  However, Sunnyville was never funny enough in the first place. And the lack of connection the audience feels to the mute flower pot men means that they are not particularly bothered by the objectively horrific treatment handed out by their neighbours. Some of this may be due to early-day hiccups – the production was not entirely slick, which left the audience less sympathetic than they would be otherwise, and this may improve as the Fringe goes on.

The night-time scenes set to the Mission Impossible music were hilarious in their deliberate clumsiness. The invisible dog was a nice addition and the company used the space at Divadlo Kampa (Nosticova 2A, Malá Strana) very well with simple yet striking scenery. Overall though, Sunnyville life was played to be repetitious and dull. And it sort of was.

Sunnyville runs May 27-30 May at 19.00 and 31 May to 4 June at 16.00 at Divadlo Kampa. For the full Fringe programme and further details go to the Fringe website. Tickets for each performance cost 150 CZK. For the keen beans amongst you, a value pack of five vouchers for 600 CZK might be just the ‘ticket´. Students presenting a valid student ID card are able to get cheap, last minute tickets for 50 CZK, from 30 minutes before start of the show. Advance tickets are available from Ticketstream.

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