I decided to approach Marie at Omnibus Theatre to put on We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time in August during a period of détente in the pandemic. My idea was that it would be a very easy play to perform on Zoom under the Omnibus’s banner. So when Marie said “let’s just put it on stage in October and add an online element as well somehow”, I was surprised and thrilled… Live theatre. LIVE THEATRE! We were going to be allowed to do this on a stage in an actual room with people!
The decisions that were taken by Evan Lordan, our director regarding the angle that the play would be presented it meant that it became a very specific commentary about this moment in time. Rather sardonically, Evan wanted the audience for whom this would be the first play that they saw to be wrong footed. You wanted to see some live theatre? Well, we’re going to make it the least theatre-y possible (the hope being that, in the end, in a Dickensian fashion, the magic of theatre would seep through and wash over us all).
The decision of transposing the play into a film during the day of one of the performances in October was, as a result, scary for a few reasons. Firstly, the show as it ended up being was designed for a certain audience experience at a specific time and place and this film would have to find a way to supersede that somehow. Secondly, and inversely, theatre often allows us to tell a story in a relatively undefined space. In the case of We Were Having a Perfectly Nice Time, I regarded the questions of “where are we” and “when are we” and “who are the characters” as unnecessary distractions: don’t worry about that, that’s not the important bit. So therefore, moving into what I perceived as a more literal medium such as film seemed a bit daunting.
I am very happy to say that I discovered during our day of shooting the film that those obstacles would not only be easily overcome but would even make the film a different and hopefully equally interesting experience. The specificity of the space was something that we enjoyed playing with on the day. “Where are they?” Well, they’re in a living room. It had always said it in the script, we’d just never shown it. And what is this living room like? That’s where the fun began! Together with our two truly extraordinarily talented actors and technically guided by our camera op Maya Barker and our editor (and sort of overall film consultant) Will Peppercorn, we began to make different choices that were specific to the film and came up with something that, though it is recognisably the same production, became its very own and distinct piece.
I hope that it can continue to touch people the way that we have known it to in the past. I am terrifically, fiercely proud of it. The script means a lot to me and it has given me so much joy that it has resonated with audiences so far. This is largely possible thanks to the at times terrifyingly bold vision of my genius director and partner in crime Evan Lordan, the intelligence and emotional generosity of our actors Hannah Livingstone and Stephanie Booth, the incredible resourcefulness of our superperson producer Grace Dickson, the editing skills of Will Peppercorn and the technical and artistic expertise of Maya Barker. Most of all, I’d like to thank Marie McCarthy and the whole team at the Omnibus Theatre whoso support has been a beacon of hope for a group of artists who, like everyone else, had a difficult year. I hope that you enjoy this film, that it makes you laugh a bit and think a bit and that it reminds you of how incredibly joyful it is to share stories.
We Were Having A Perfectly Nice Time: The Film premieres on YouTube on Thursday 4 March with a live Q&A from the team, moderated by Omnibus Theatre‘s Artistic Director Marie McCarthy. Get your Pay What You Can ticket here→