Happy Meal opens on a snowy (digital) vista but warmth radiates off the stage in this rapturous story of finding friendship and your own identity online. Art can often be sceptical of our hyper-connected world but Tabby Lamb’s play understands the intense intimacy of the internet and its ability to allow queer people to experiment with being their authentic selves.
That’s the experience of Alec (Sam Crerar), who’s building confidence as a trans man in digital spaces before testing the waters in the outside world. He finds a fast friend in the exuberant Bette (Allie Daniel). The pair spend their evenings chatting about Buffy and Neighbours but when Alec suggests meeting IRL, the relationship gets more complicated, forcing the dismantling of their projected identities for something messier but more honest.
Lamb’s dialogue is delightfully rat-a-tat and spills over with noughties references, but beyond the nostalgic callouts there’s a pleasing directness in the script’s depiction of the joys and complications of being transgender. Despite most of the drama taking place on Alec and Bette’s desktops Happy Meal never feels static, with the vivid staging using colourful lighting projections and some very familiar audio cues to transport us to myriad online spaces. Energy emanates from the performances too. As Alec, Crerar exudes a cock-of-the-walk swagger while Daniel plays Bette as a geeky diva who uses goofiness to hide plenty of inner turmoil.
The Fringe doesn’t want for transgender stories, but you’ll find few as wise, tender and joyous as this one.