TIME OF MY LIFE
by Alan Ayckbourne
Director: Anne Wint
This was my first visit, sitting within a theatre, since March 2020 and I must say that the thought of making a return to any venue was a little daunting to say the least, and I am sure others have felt the same. However, as I greeted fellow thespians, one remarked that as you enter a theatre, any theatre that is, there is a smell, an aura, that puts you at ease immediately and you are back! That was so true, and I really enjoyed watching my first play of the 2021/2022 season.
This Alan Ayckbourn play centres around Gerry Stratton who has organized a family dinner with his sons, Glyn and Adam, at his favourite restaurant to celebrate his wife Laura’s birthday. Glyn is with his long-suffering wife Stephanie; there have been marital issues, but things look to be on firmer ground. Adam has brought along his new girlfriend, an outrageous hairdresser, and they are both eager to impress. Gradually, family skeletons intrude on the happy domestic scene: Glyn continues to be unfaithful, the family business is in financial trouble, and Laura has been unfaithful. Glyn’s story is set more recently, and Adam’s further back in time, while at the centre Gerry and Laura contemplate their marriage and recall first love.
This is a ‘time’ play, and all this happens on the same set. The simplicity of the set, designed and constructed by Ian Wilkinson and team, worked well: large central space acted as the restaurant, while two side areas, lit by spotlights, (operated by Sophie Billington) isolated separate tables for the two brothers to conduct their relationship discussions. The inclusion of some mood music added to the ambience. I heard a member of the public behind me say that it made her feel like being away on a Mediterranean holiday.
Ian Wilkinson, (Gerry) is convincing as the proud, amiable, and smug father who is too wrapped up in his business to notice his marriage slipping away. Sue Hind is also impressive as Laura, the stubborn, unsympathetic, and self-centred mother, who can't help but spoil the evening by opening her big mouth and meddling in her children's lives. Sue’s tone of voice and delivery conveyed meaning in every line delivered. Both these actors showed great restraint, discipline, and professionalism, during the scenes set forward, where they had to sit stock still in near darkness so as not to draw the eyes from the couples playing the sons and partners.
Eldest son, Glyn (Chris Billington), who is on the board of the family firm, would do anything for his mother’s love, she can scarcely stand to be in the same room as him – nor his accepting, wallflower wife Stephanie (Charlotte Durham). The change in character was well done from both of these actors. Chris began the play as a confident and assertive man but due to his own actions lost everything and became a shadow of his former self. Whilst Charlotte made us believe that the meek wife gained in confidence once she accepted the marriage was over and she began her life again as an independent woman. Lovely symbolism of sending the fizzy water back to convey this.
Adam (Sam Hindmarch), meanwhile, is the apple of his mother’s eye. She mistakes his lack of purpose for sensitivity, but he too desperately seeks her approval. Sam brought a nervousness to the character, wringing of the hands and stuttering conversation, which he kept throughout, which was quite charming. The relationship that developed between him and Sarah Morgan’s straight talking, out to shock, Maureen brought some humour and comedy to the piece.
There was a good injection of comedy from Mark Bennett, as the five Euro Waiters, each different with a change of waistcoat to identify the character. This role could very easily steal every scene; this actor had to have discipline and careful judgement, when to make the characters larger than life and when to be gentle and quiet. Well done!
Director Anne Wint got a lot of movement into a play that mostly requires people sitting at restaurant tables.