Since Ben Moor first burst onto the Fringe eight years ago, his intricate, intimate one-man shows have gone from surreal, science-based semiotics (It Takes Forever If You Go By Inertia and A Supercollider For The Family, also appearing at this year's Fringe) to lovelorn linguistics (Poppy Day and My Last Week With Modolia).
Moor's face still resembles a Ralph Steadman cartoon and he still has a brain the size of a planet but his onstage character has matured from gawky gimp to cute charmer.
Now Moor is joined by Janice Phayre in a logical extension of his move towards writing about relationships. The result is a two-hander with wide appeal: a sort of Bridget Jones meets Melvyn Bragg.
Moor plays George, Phayre plays Flip, a gormless yet adorable oddball couple who endear us with their vulnerability. They seem destined to float in a fairytale existence, until the strangest thing happens. The Earth enters an area of the galaxy engulfed by a cloud that warps reality in such a way that all Earth's inhabitants are granted three wishes.
The most amazing things happen: football scores reach in their thousands; dying people recover; sadly, some foolish folk wish for a Bosch. Yet their fairytale is undone by their three wishes. Thoughtlessness and reality get in the way to ensure their wishes don't turn out as planned.
Ben Moor's balanced script boasts mathematical symmetry and precision. Witty outtakes enhance rather than divert from the narrative drive and the content holds pure girlie "aahh" moments and elegantly intellectual word-plays in equilibrium.
Directed with a light, deft hand by Erica Whyman and performed with just the right balance of wit and sentimentality, Three Wishes is a harmoniously proportioned Rubik's cube of the most delightful ideas.
Five Star Review
Gabe Stewart, Evening News, 7th August 2001
Is there a new spin you can put on the perennial first date 'if you had three wishes' question? Is it possible to do without going all mawkish and Disney on us? It most certainly is, and it's attributable almost single-handedly to Ben Moor, writer and star of this incredible show. Backed up more than ably by Janice Phayre, we are introduced out of sync to a doomed couple who weren't quite careful enough in what they wished for. Through their eyes we are taken on a fantastical journey - part Douglas Adams, part Steve Coogan - while Moor, our primary guide, imparts upon us metaphysical wisdom combined with some of the funniest, freshest thoughts you are likely to hear at the Festival this year. Professional, exceptionally clever and expertly delivered, this is a show that will go much further than the Fringe.
Five Star Review
Phil Maynard, Three Weeks, 20th August 2001
From the tightrope-walking wife in A Supercollider For the Family to the octogenarian scientist Modolia, women have always played a major part in Ben Moor's one-man shows.
The relationships he conjures tend to be rose-tinted fantasies in which he is the gushy lover, while she is a figure of electrifying independence. Flip Lemon, the sparky girlfriend in Three Wishes, is typical - only this time we get to see her for ourselves.
Janice Phayre brings to Flip a delicious matter-of-factness: it's easy to see how this woman might write a self-help book called Shut Up and Cope. With a smaller stage to fill, Moor reins in his usual physical exuberance - his George is the most staid character in his repertoire.
Flip and George's relationship is utterly normal, marked by petty disagreements and tiny disappointments. And when the world enters a magic cloud for a month, during which time everyone gets three wishes granted, there is something sadly familiar about the couple's accidentally voiced desires: I wish she could be different, I wish we'd never met.
This could be Moor's best show so far: a charming, irreverent but unflinching examination of a relationship in decline that keeps the groanworthy puns to a minimum, sentimentality under control and realism firmly allied to fairy-tale invention.
Three Star Review
Maddy Costa, The Guardian, 23rd August 2001
Last April, as the records show, an astral cloud enveloped the earth and for four weeks we all had the chance to make three wishes come true. Since then, understandably, things have never been the same. This romantic comedy tells the personal experience of two ordinary people before, during and after the event. George and Flip are a splendidly scatty, perfectly matched couple who proudly announced their engagement the day before the cloud came. Now they have got their wishes, what could go wrong?
Beautifully crafted vignettes relate their tale with a neat narrative technique, taking the concept to its logical absurdities, and there are more than a few laughs in the telling. Aided by Erica Whyman's sensitive direction, Ben Moor and Janice Phayre have a dreamy yet focused delivery that instantly connects. From the moment they walk on, they make an endearing, convincing couple you want to wrap up and take home with you.
As a writer, Moor's imagination occasionally oversteps himself, but under the delightful dizziness lies a remarkably moral play that tackles trust, as the characters question their expectations of each other.
Nick Awde, The Stage, 23rd August 2001
In his latest romantic comedy, writer/performer Ben Moor takes a bitter-sweet look at what happens when you get what you wish for.
For one month the Earth is enveloped in a mysterious wish-granting cloud. Everyone gets three wishes, subject to certain conditions. Body shapes, personal wealth, politically sensitive situations and football scorelines go haywire. And one likeable couple's relationship changes drastically, as they wish in haste and repent at leisure.
The gangly Moor plays George, internet entrepreneur and old school romantic, while Janice Phayre, of comedy duo Susan & Janice, is a natural in the role of scatty, self-help book publisher Flip.
The play deals cosily with their courtship and crisis, but it's the little superfluous details and comic asides rather than the development of their relationship that gives the show character.
Moor is best on tangential observations about incidental characters we never meet, or the latest Cuban television import. Relevant or not, these witty touches are the play's herbs and spices. But when they make Three Wishes into a big-budget Hollywood romantic comedy, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr, they'll leave all that good flavour out.
Three Star Review
Fiona Shepherd, The Scotsman, 16th August 2001