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Writer Tabby Lamb shares their 'Happy Meal' with Perth Festival

Many of us millennials have a shared experience, perhaps fear, of our Myspace profiles still lurking in the ether of the world wide web, waiting to be uncovered.

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East London based writer Tabby Lamb and I both confirm our Myspace pages that we’d lovingly customised with HMTL code and auto-starting music players must still be out there, somewhere, as we connect on Zoom to chat about their show Happy Meal.

These early days of the internet where Myspace ruled are where Happy Meal plays out. Described as “an online show IRL”, Happy Meal is a romcom that explores the joy and sense of community that online connection can bring, especially for queer, trans or non-binary people, like Lamb themselves.

As we travel back to the time of Neopets and Habbo Hotel, Lamb recalls fond and powerful memories of their first steps online.

“That’s very much what inspired the show,” Lamb says.

“I’m from a small town and I used the internet to pry out my gender, to work out who I was, to chat to other queer people… it’s very much inspired by those very early internet days, before we all knew the dangers, and when it felt like this exciting new thing!

“I put a lot of power in the internet, I think a lot of the recent steps forward in queer liberation comes from the fact that we’re all more connected and have the internet at our fingertips and can find our community and seek help, or seek joy, within a second.

“It was fun to explore that on a personal level. What do these websites do for these kids? What is the impact is has on them if we’re exploring the joys of it? So many friends I have now are friends I made on Myspace or Twitter in the noughties. It’s wild!

Lamb points out that every play they’ve seen with a focus on the internet is engulfed by its dark side, and the evil people who use it for nefarious means. Acknowledging the internet can be a terrifying place, Happy Meal sets out to celebrate the good that’s come from more accessible connection.

“Everyone uses the internet! The internet does have its dangers but it’s done amazing things,” Lamb continues.

“When you think about the queer kids in rural towns who get to watch YouTube videos of trans kids with the support of their parents, they get to watch documentaries or TV shows and that’s so powerful and important. I wanted to pay tribute to that a little bit whilst also telling this little love story.

“The internet is a minefield. For every page with safe information, there will be another page that might lead you to some sort of ‘conversion therapy’ or to bad binding techniques.

“I’m not saying that everything is perfect, but this is a romcom and in the romcom world, we see how technology can really support queer people, and how queer people can utilise technology to rally the community, but on a very basic level just stay connected with people.

“It does that for everyone, but because queer and trans people, especially in rural areas, weren’t able to do that. The internet suddenly made that possible.

Happy Meal also pays tribute to the romcom, which goes hand in hand with the pop culture explosion of Y2K. Still, Lamb has set out to tell it their way.

“Our show is a romcom but we’ve kind of queered it a little bit. Our show ends where most romcoms start. We are all about the build up and then we end the show at the ‘meetcute’.

“We don’t know what happens in the future, we don’t know what goes on, but the whole point of the show is to show these characters falling in love with themselves.

“It’s about learning to accept your gender, it’s about supporting your gender, affirming your gender, and the joy that can come with that!”

Happy Meal opens on Thursday 9 February at Perth Festival. For tickets and more info, head to perthfestival.com.au

Leigh Andrew Hill


Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.org.au / discharged.org.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au


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