I knew nothing about A Guide to Unhappiness or its performers going into this show, which is part of the charm of the Melbourne Fringe. My interest was simply piqued by the quaint synopsis: Sunny Leunig is a Magosopher – A hapless, awkward magician and philosopher. There was just something child-like and fantastical about the word Magosopher that made me want to discover more about this show.
I feel all warm and fuzzy describing this show because it really is such a delight. Understated and intimate, as an audience member you feel like part of the family as you undertake this tender and comical journey with Sunny Leunig and his fabulous sidekick Jono Burns.
This show is a clever blend of magic, music, philosophy and schtick with an overarching pathos punctuated with many fine comedic moments. It’s not difficult to make the connection that a person named Sunny is delivering a show with a title that suggests anything but a sunny disposition, but I imagine he’d agree that this is one of those strange quirks of life.
Anne Browning, as director, has done a great job in ensuring that the performance devices in this show interweave smoothly through the charming narrative, which keeps the audience engaged throughout.
Leunig, himself, is a warm and personable performer who showcases not only his magic skills but his fine musical talents while Jono Burns (who co-wrote this show) is the consummate chameleon shifting in and out of different characters with ebullience and dexterity. Sara Retallick who provides a backdrop character as well as delivers gorgeous vocals and guitar rounds of this show perfectly.
I’ve seen shows pontificating on philosophy but this is not one of them. The references to philosophy are delicate and form a framework to the narrative like a beautiful melody. This show is frank about the fact that life can be cruel and deliver its fair share of unhappiness. But the final message here is that there is magic in knowing that suffering can ultimately shine a light.