Tuesday, October 09, 2007

'Time of My Life' by Alan Ayckbourn

9 October 2007

There's a particular satisfaction when the risk involved in taking a 'lucky dip' approach to selecting a cultural dish results in a delicious feast. We felt that satisfaction the first time we discovered the 2-for-1 ticket booth in Leicester Square. It was 1993 and we were rewarded with half price tickets to a matinee of the new Alan Ayckbourn play which had just transferred from its premiere in Scarborough to the West End. 'Time of My Life' starred Anton Rodgers and Gwen Taylor in a family drama set in an Italian restaurant. As with most of Ayckbourn's prolific output it is a deceptively simple play - with a single set and no difficult staging arrangements - intentionally giving it a sustainable life in the amateur theatre. The particular device in 'Time of My Life' is multiple timelines moving in different directions. We can see three tables in the restaurant: the first hosts a family birthday meal while the other two tables simultaneously show us members of the family moving forwards and backwards, respectively, through time. These windows on the present, future and past gradually reveal poignant depths to the story, exploring when it is that we are truly happy - and whether we ever realise at the time. Although this all sounds complex it is easy to follow and follows a typical Ayckbourn path of making us laugh while we slip along an inexorably sad trajectory. We really enjoyed that original production in 1993 and were surprised when its run ended prematurely. Fourteen years later Ayckbourn cites 'Time of My Life' as one of his favourite and most under-rated plays. Last Saturday we were at the Royal Theatre in Northampton to see Laurie Sansom's new production of the play. Sansom came to Northampton after four years working with Ayckbourn as Associate Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and has created an enjoyable and effective revival. Our fond memories of the play were reinforced - particularly fond because we originally discovered it by accident!

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