Review By Tash Bradshaw
It’s an all-too familiar scene in recent months. The glaring lights. The row of chairs. The announcement that the flight has been delayed, with no explanation as to why.
This Moment in Time, written by Alistair Ward and directed by Mashaka Gunnulson, brilliantly captures the exasperation and vulnerability of weary travellers, and tells a heart-warming story of truth-telling, self-discovery and friendship between strangers. The Butterfly Club provides the ideal intimate space for such a story.
The play opens with Sam, played by Ruby Vadiveloo, hearing an announcement that her flight has been delayed. An eyeroll, a subtle shake of the head and a disgruntled groan begins her star performance. The stage setting is perfect in its simplicity: three chairs, a jacket, a water bottle, and a small suitcase (much smaller than the baggage to come).
Enter Theo, played by Alistair Ward, crystal around his neck and self-help book in hand. Ward’s impressive and perky performance begins with an even more impressive act: gracefully eating a whole banana on stage. It might be an early sign of his unyielding optimism. He wears a bright printed shirt and pink hat, in stark contrast to Sam’s all-black attire. He’s ready to work on becoming someone who can talk to anyone, and his target is Sam.
Sam makes her unhappiness about talking to Theo, along with her dislike of self-help books and crystals, very clear. She won’t even tell him her name. But slowly, the mood changes. We learn about Sam’s life as an artist in New York, her father’s death, the family guilt imposed by her mother and sister, and her failing relationship. And we learn about Theo’s ex-situationship with a close friend, and his plans to escape the pain of the break-up and become a better person along the way.
The play shifts between conversations between Theo and Sam, and asides that give the audience an insight into their thoughts, signalled by changes in lighting. The distinction shows us just how much the characters are willing to share with each other – and what they leave out.
Communication is hard, but we all need someone to listen, and sometimes it can be easier to share with a stranger than our closest friends and family.
Throughout the truth-telling is a scattering of punchy one-liners that keep the audience, and characters, laughing. The dialogue is skilfully crafted to be realistic, engaging and relatable, and Ward and Vadiveloo’s performances take us on a journey from frustration and discomfort to warmth and friendship.
The contrasting experiences of love and loss adds an interesting dimension to the play. Theo describes his love for his ex-boyfriend (or ex-situation-ship) with a fierce passion, adoration, and deep longing. Sam, on the other hand, has a long-term relationship that has fizzled into boredom, awkward silences, broken trust, and relief at being apart. Sam’s experiences, both in her relationship and her career in New York, show us that what looks good from the outside isn’t always what makes us happy.
In the end, a hug, a gift of crystals for abundance AND growth, and a change in direction for Sam show us the impact that open conversations can have. And in a symbol of how far they have come, Theo finally learns Sam’s name.