We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time works perfectly for a socially distanced venue. A two-hander needing only two chairs, a glass port decanter, and a can of Guinness. The characters themselves are distanced too; emotionally and physically. It’s a shame that the show itself is not so perfect.
Presented by Conflicted Theatre, in association with Grace Dickson Productions, Pedro Leandro’s script is reasonably witty and there are some good lines – I particularly enjoy a quick reference to a crazed neighbour being like Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire. I do titter a few times at the script, as do other members of the audience, but the story is lacking in depth and the characters are incredibly two dimensional.
The story about flatmates, who are not intimate friends but can tolerate each other, is over-hashed; it is the story of every first year university student, which is exhibited already in well-known shows, such as Fresh Meat. Although it’s well-written and amusing, it does not offer anything new. I understand that there is no such thing as an original idea, but I do feel that the story you choose to tell should have some form of USP, and this does not. All quibbles aside, I would be interested to see more of Leandro’s work in the future.
I really enjoy a moment at the beginning of the show where the piece gets very meta. An awkward pause at the start is interrupted by Leandro, to say that the show has actually started, which makes for awkward, but amusing, comments about how he is not part of the play. I almost feel this could have been longer, as once he sat down there was again another pause. I feel an interjection from him here saying “you can start” would have added another layer of comedy. Also, this interchange with the audience directly contrasts with the monotony of the rest of the piece: not in a meaningful or interesting way but in a way that seems incoherent.
Director, Evan Lordan, notes that they are inspired by work by Yorgos Lanthimos with regard to this script. Unfortunately, I feel Lordan goes for the gimmick of an entirely monotone performance and does not give any heart to Leandro’s words. Monotonous delivery in dialogue about everything, from intense love to crazed neighbours, is funny for two minutes at most and I, unfortunately, do find myself checking my watch twice during what is a 25-minute performance.
Stephanie Booth and Hannah Livingstone are clearly strong performers, but I feel the piece itself does not allow them to showcase themselves. In particular, Booth has a monologue at the end of the piece where she stands with fists clenched in an almost Sajid Javid style power-pose. It lives in that awkward middle-ground – it is not stylised enough, but it is also not naturalistic. It looks, to be frank, odd.
Overall, this is a disappointing piece. There are funny moments but it does not have the depth to allow its performers or script to shine.
We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time is playing until 24 October. Tickets are available at the Omnibus Theatre website.