What is happiness? How do we know that we are happy? And can we sustain it? A Google search for “happiness” yeilds 75 million results, and nearly 40,000 books on or related to the topic are availble for purchase on Amazon.com. From Aristotle’s ethics to blockbuster bestseller The Happiness Project, happiness is something human beings are searching for.
Glenn Waldron’s new play The Here and This and Now is in many ways about the pursuit of happiness and the lengths to which mankind will go to achieve it; about how life is really a sequence of moments, whether you are in an office working in Woking or an astronaut in space. In a world of instant gratification, in which happiness is sold to us through Instagram posts, and aspirational product launches, have we lost the true meaning of happiness? The Happiness Project proposes that the 21st century combination of unprecedented prosperity and uncertainty about the future are driving factors causing people to question what really matters to them and in then searching for greater happiness.
The first week of rehearsals has seen us wrestle with this as we dig into the script. Director Simon Stokes’ rehearsal process is intensely detailed, aiming to fill every moment. To be in the moment, rather like the modern day mindfulness philosophy. One of the most joyful things about working on plays is the immersion into another world during a rehearsal period, which often sees you researching what you never normally would. This first week I have learnt an awful lot about antimicrobial resistance, taken the Myers Briggs test and discovered I am an ENFP (click the link to do the test yourself) and reminded myself of the mid 90s band Kula Shaker (who’s first album, incidentally, was the fastest selling debut after Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, potentially pretty good pub quiz knowledge there).
And games. So. Many. Games. Team building games are forming a large part of the structure of the play, so we are experimenting with different games each day. I’ve had to delve into my whole store of games, from corporate team building games to straight up children’s games, including Grandmother’s Footsteps to Stuck in the Mud (I have the bruises on my knees to prove it).
If happiness is about being in every moment, as many a modern self help book will tell you, then games certainly help you achieve that. When someone is about to throw a ball at your face or chase you across the room there is no choice but to be in the moment. One might say just as great theatre can grip you and take you into a new reality. Whether that is happiness, well, I don’t know – but it certainly is alive.