Past, Present and Future Collide in Alan Ayckbourn Revival
Penny Flood reviews Time of My Life at the Tabard Theatre
The first line of TS Eliot’s poem East Coker goes: ‘in my end is my beginning’, and that’s how it is in this play, where time shifts from past to present to future not in any particular order, and ends right back where it started. It also serves as a stark warning about the dangers of driving when you’ve had too much to drink.
All the action takes place in Calvinu’s Restaurant where the family are gathered to celebrate the birthday party of matriarch Laura (Joanne Pope). Laura’s an awful person, a spiteful, controlling harridan in a permanent rage because the world won’t spin the way she wants it to. Why her mild mannered husband Gerry (David Lucas) stays with her is a mystery. A mystery that grows as we learn more about Laura and a secret is revealed as the brandy slips down and things start to unravel in an alcoholic haze. Gerry drives home in a drunken rage.
The family have been going to Calvinu’s for years and the owner and his four waiters know them well. Familiarity may not breed contempt here but it does breed familiarity as the five, all played hilariously by Adam Wittek with perfect comic timing, feel free to butt in when they think it would help. The other guests at the party are elder son Glyn (John Pickard) with his wife Stephanie (Tansy Adair) and younger son Adam (Joe Leather) and his girlfriend Maureen (Lucy Formby).
There's a trio of story lines. As well as the party, which is in the here and now, there are vignettes of the loves and lives of the two boys and their relationships – past present and future. I’m not sure if this worked well. It’s confusing, and it meant the final outcome was revealed almost at the beginning taking away any frisson of anticipation and tension.
Alan Ayckbourn is a prolific comic playwright with 79 plays under his belt. His star shone brightly in the eighties when some of his work was on at the National Theatre. This isn’t one of them. It suffers because too much of the humour comes from Laura’s behaviour rather than strong writing, we’re expected to laugh at her not with her, and the joke wears thin.
This not to say there aren’t some funny, almost farcical moments, there are, but more would have been nice.
Time of My Life by Alan Ayckbourn runs at the Tabard Theatre, 3rd – 28th March 2015 directed by Law Ballard.
Venue: Tabard Theatre, 2 Bath Road, Chiswick W4 1LW
March 11, 2015