Review: One Perfect Moment (Fortune Theatre)
Updated: Jun 3
As we approach New Zealand summer, it seems fitting that light-weight comedy about holidays starts appearing. Usually this comes in the form of television and film as opposed to appearing on the stage, but Fortune Theatre has channelled this desire for easily-digestible mildly xenophobic comedy into Ellie Smith's "One Perfect Moment". We follow Pammie (Perry Piercy), a bored and restless mother fast approaching her 60th birthday, and her reluctant companion and 18 year old daughter Angel (Bronwyn Ensor) as they travel to and around Europe for a few months. The irony of me seeing this show did not escape me, but while the premise of Smith's premiering play did not strike me as groundbreaking, a little relaxation and fun may be what we are all craving.
Our characters introduce themselves by complaining; Pammie about how dreary her life has become, and about a lack of attention given to her by her social-media-absorbed daughter and her grouchy ageing mother. Angel first speaks after she is gleefully informed that she will be spending the next few months travelling with the sole company of her mother, after which she complains about how "old people are an embarrassment" and about how she won't see her friends or boyfriend for months. You can see the problem. Aside from these complaints being incredibly unoriginal and cliche, we never really build on their characters and can already see every plot point that will come their way. Adjusting to life with hilarious consequences (here featuring camel excrement), a moment of conflict as the two struggle to spend every day with each other, a shocking moment of tension to bring them back together, and a heart-warming conclusion as they arrive home and get back to their normal lives with a renewed spring in their step.
The thinly written characters and mind-numbingly dull and recycled plot could be forgiven with a fun and witty script with well-timed delivery. Instead, the comedy rides on the back of every stereotype ever conceived being used create wacky scenarios. Angel herself is explored in depth with such lines as "take a chill pill" and "why do we have to be seeing stuff all the time? If I wanted to see something I'd Google it". In addition to our wonderfully layered heroine we have an overweight man dancing who is literally named "fat arse", Angel's vegetarian pot-head father who indulges in constant relaxation and hoping for world peace, and a Spanish stallion who sweeps Pammie off her feet in a fleeting and passionate holiday romance. And what the hell, I'll also say that Angel's friend Roy, who is described as having mascara running down his face and who gets himself into trouble in his over excited frenzy to be with her, is a gay best friend stereotype. Just a guess.
All these characters are played by Piercy and Ensor, who to their credit look like they are having a whale of a time with the play. Piercy is good fun in and epitomises the happy-go-lucky character perfectly, and for the easily pleased she makes for a delightful friend of a protagonist to whom I'm sure many audience members relate. Ensor is an interesting case, because I found her to be a very striking stage presence with a lot of versatility, as well as proving that she has good comedic timing despite there being little opportunity to put this to use here. However, I did find her whining and sulking only added insult to injury regarding her character. Through her annoying performance, she still proves how talented and wasted she is.
"One Perfect Moment" may be depressingly unoriginal, but then again it did not have grand ambitions. That's not a criticism, it just never aspired to be more than a good night out, and for the audience I saw it with and for countless others who I know would love it, it certainly delivers. It's bland and predictable, but rather blandly and predictably it is a massive crowdpleaser. It does what it intends to do and does it superbly well, the only cost being that for anyone with expects more than jokes about camel excrement from theatre will be sorely disappointed. Two stars.