Mark Ludmon reviews Pedro Leandro’s short play, We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time, from Conflicted Theatre at Omnibus Theatre in Clapham, London
We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time
Omnibus Theatre, London
Conceived before lockdown, Pedro Leandro’s short play, We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time, is all about distancing. Two young women sit on stage with a decanter of port and a can of Guinness, staring out across the audience into the middle distance, having a heart-to-heart but never making eye contact with each other. They are long-time flatmates and friends, sharing a home and a weekly shop, but they barely know each other. Their safe, mundane life together is soon shattered by revelations that mean things will probably never be the same again, leading them to question ideas around love, friendship and how much we connect with each other.
Running at just 25 minutes, the dialogue is fast and funny, a quick-fire banter that would become tiresome and tiring if the play were any longer. Under director Evan Lordan, Stephanie Booth and Hannah Livingstone deliver their exchanges with humour and charm but in a deadpan, emotionally restrained style that reflects the production’s rejection of naturalism in favour of pared-down minimalism. A disruptive meta-theatrical moment at the start underlines that this is an artificial construct, creating a distance between the performances and the audience, although the two characters are too strong and intricately drawn to be held back by the anti-naturalistic staging.
This is the first piece of live theatre at Omnibus Theatre since lockdown in March, demonstrating the venue’s commitment to getting audiences back in. Individuals and “bubbles” are led one by one from the café-bar (where it is table service) into the performance space, where you sit at least two metres apart in masks (which can be briefly removed for sipping drinks). There may be room for only around 30 people each performance, but, at We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time, it was a thrill to be back inside a theatre, laughing and applauding with strangers. Despite being a play about distances, the experience provided a wonderful sense of connection.
Running to 24 October 2020