Tabby Lamb’s new comedy drama, Happy Meal, is full of joy – even before it begins. As the audience arrive, they are greeted by a jolly giant penguin in a yellow scarf who waves and smiles enthusiastically, and is only briefly plunged into sadness when ignored. This penguin turns out to be the avatar of Bette, a teenager who meets a new friend, Al, in the virtual multiplayer world of Club Penguin. Through various online spaces, the two grow closer without actually meeting, allowing them both to explore their true identities without the pressure of real life.

Funny and at times deeply moving, this is a rollercoaster of a rom-com which presents a fresh take on the trans experience, directed by Jamie Fletcher. In time, with Bette’s support, Al comes out as male, unaware that Bette is still struggling to be the girl she knows herself to be. Bette’s journey is particularly heart-wrenching in a strong, endearing performance by Allie Daniel alongside Sam Crerar as Al. Their chat-room interactions are cleverly represented on stage by two separate booths, designed by Ben Stones and brilliantly animated by Daniel Denton’s videos.

The show is full of nostalgia that will especially resonate with kids who grew up in the noughties, from virtual communities like Club Penguin, Neopets and MySpace to Buffy, Eurotrash and S-Club 7. But this story is just as relevant today where online spaces continue to be refuges where many people make their first tentative steps in expressing their identities – places that are safe and a potential springboard for happiness but still fraught with pain and heartache.

Happy Meal runs at Traverse Theatre as part of Edinburgh Fringe to 28 August 2022 and then at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 7 to 10 September 2022. Tickets at and