TIME OF MY LIFE
by Alan Ayckbourn.
Stephen Joseph Theatre (The Round) In rep to 4 October 2013.
7.30pm 15, 20 July, 10, 12, 22, 23 Aug, 4, 5, 9, 10, 13, 18, 19, 23, 24 Sept3, 4 Oct.
2.30pm 20 July, 10 Aug, 14, 28 Sept.
1.30pm 5, 19 Sept.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 July.
Highly enjoyable and et thought-provoking.
In 1992 this seemed a good new Alan Ayckbourn piece, combining his early comedies’ baes in middle-class manners and problematic relationships with his more recent plays’ added bitterness.
It was also a rare venture for this long-term Scarborough-based playwright into northern characters, other than in plays about amateur theatricals.
With the passage of time, the play’s typical Ayckbourn ingenuity of structure emerges more clearly as integral to both the laughter and the bitterness beneath.
Aptly, for the play demonstrates the paradox that happiness seems to exist outside Time. It requires we do not think about how we feel; somehow it exists in its own, however temporary, dimension with no room for self-consciousness or thought.
The momentary happiness here is expressed in the inchoate babble round a restaurant dinner-table at the family birthday celebration which frames the play. But time, winding through the night as Laura and her businessman-husband Jerry stay on sealing their fates through alcohol, invades as surely as the ‘dangerous corner’ in the conversation upon which J B Priestley built his first play.
And Priestley, theatre’s great explorer of time, lies behind the unspooling of the next generation. The seemingly contrasted sons, businessman and poet, are both psychologically maimed in their attempts at relationships, one unwinding to its eventual demise, the other unravelling through ever-earlier stages where hope, set against the shadow of other disappointments, keeps the couple going, even as fears of being judged by Laura grow in young Maureen’s mind.
John Branwell’s Jerry shows a more vulnerable side than memories of Russell Dixon in 1992 provide, even when he’s trying to identify his wife Laura’s one-time lover. Sarah Parks is every inch the confident, opinionated person of a rich manufacturer’s wife, while Rachel Caffery and Emily Pithon suggest different strengths in contrast to the nervous Adam of James Powell and Richard Stacey’s blustering Glyn.
An Italian family restaurant allows the communal meal to be separated from smaller tables where the young couples meet, and years in the north have led to a delicious mix of Mediterranean accent with ‘oop north’ vowels in Ben Porter’s multiple cameos.
Gerry: John Branwell.
Maureen: Rachel Caffery.
Laura: Sarah Parks.
Stephanie: Emily Pithon.
Waiters: Ben Porter.
Adam: James Powell.
Glyn: Richard Stacey.
Director: Alan Ayckbourn.
Designer: Jan Bee Brown.
Lighting: Tigger Johnson.