TIME OF MY LIFE
by Alan Ayckbourn.
Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ To 23 April 2011.
Tue-Sat & Mon 16 April7.45pm no performance 22 April Mat 14, 16, 20, 23 April 2.30pm.
Captioned 18 April.
Post-show Discussion 19 April.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01923 225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 April.
Cyanide-streaked laughter revived with verve.
Mothers-in-Law are no joke in Alan Ayckbourn. Vera is brought to a nervous breakdown by hers in Just Between Ourselves (1976). Sixteen years later Time of My Life shows Laura’s destructive impact on her family.
Explanations unfold in a series of restaurant scenes as her two sons’ relationships spread backward (in the case of young Adam) or forward (for older brother Glyn). And the further their partners are from her family’s bosom the happier their lives.
Brigid Larmour’s revival is well-timed, as talk of business failure and unemployment again seems current – though wisely she doesn’t update. Despite some highly comic moments, this isn’t the funniest account there’s been. But, vitally, her cast play the truth of the situation.
As the younger generation’s lives unspool downstairs, the upstairs room where events began with the whole family talking at once in a drink-fuelled birthday babel, shows the older generation reduced to occasional interjections in a dark emptiness, yet remaining a malign influence on the younger lives.
The opening’s funny, but a portent too of confusions and miseries to come, making Ayckbourn’s point that happiness cannot be experienced self-consciously. The family fragments on Ruari Murchison’s impressive twin-deck stage, past and future alternating with the impression of simultaneous existences.
Paul Bentall’s Gerry and son Glyn both meet problems with loud, angry bluster, Chris Kelham’s arrogant slouch expressing the lazy presumption of someone destroying his wife while thinking himself considerate. Anna O’Grady’s Stephanie moves from washed-out pregnancy to smart confidence when independent, while Jessica Dickens rejoices under elaborate hairstyles as Maureen’s relations with Adam retreat to their cross-purpose origins. Craig Fletcher as Laura’s favoured son ends up apparently down on his luck, but in his easygoing way as near-happy as any.
Except Laura, whose polite surface Marion Bailey catches, with the underlying sniping. The most commented-upon character, she too thrives outside marriage in her way. These varied fortunes are offset by a family of waiters, their varying temperaments showing stoicism, blitheness or anger from Gregory Dudgeon in a revival joyously and trenchantly exploring how evasive happiness can be. Well worth an evening of anyone’s life.
Gerry: Paul Bentall.
Laura: Marion Bailey.
Glyn: Chris Kelham.
Adam: Craig Fletcher.
Stephanie: Anna O’Grady.
Maureen: Jessica Dickens.
Calvinu/Tuto/Aggi/Dinka/Bengie: Gregory Gudgeon.
Director: Brigid Larmour/
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Matthew Eagland.
Sound: Rich Walsh.