Surprising; that was my first thought upon leaving Jack Rooke’s most recent Edinburgh Fringe escapade. To be perfectly honest, the show left me somewhat speechless: it took me a while to organise my thoughts enough to come to a conclusion about it.
Happy Hour, at first glance, is a hilarious monologue focused how Rooke blew his 12k journalism scholarship on drinking, drugs and dodgy one-bed flat shares – like any good student. Complete with sporadic dance outbursts, the show is a great exercise in escapism, dragging us into Rooke’s fresher world as if we were right there with him. Yet, the line-up of family, friends and pets he has lost throughout the years lightly brushed off at the outset is the first indication that this show may not be quite what it seemed at the start. Rooke takes us on a journey through university and beyond in the form of a letter addressed to his friend Ollie, who we meet in fresher’s week, and later find out killed himself shortly after finishing his degree.
But Rooke, in his performance, doesn’t dwell on the sad; the show is funny and still light-hearted to a degree. His anecdotes cause real deep belly laughter in the audience at points and we’re always left wanting more. The show acts as a tribute to Ollie and all the others lost to suicide – as a way to come to terms with it, yes, but also to comment on the shocking mental health care statistics in our Tory budget-cutting era, and the callous way in which suicide is reported in the media.
So, my conclusion is this: Jack Rooke does what many people would consider impossible. He marries comedy and brutal realism with a touch of sadness to create a show which urges us to look after the people we care about whilst we can – even when they don’t want to look after themselves.
Words: Emily Hay
Jack Rooke: Happy Hour, Underbelly @ Cowgate, Aug 3-27, 5.20pm