Time Of My Life

Date 23rd October 2021
Society Hall Players
Venue Preston Playhouse
Type of Production Play
Director Maureen Nickson
Musical Director n/a
Choreographer n/a
Producer Hall Players

Report

Author: Paul R. Mason

 

This was our first visit to Preston Playhouse. Considering we live less than 10 miles away and have done so since moving to Blackburn over 34 years ago, it is an odd fact. We were immensely impressed by the theatre and shall definitely be returning frequently.Our debut was made all the more enjoyable as we had the pleasure of seeing a tremendously well honed performance of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s “Time Of My Life” staged by the Hall Players. The society has recently decamped from their former home, St. Martin’s Chapel in Fulwood, to the Playhouse.  This is also the first time we have seen one of their productions.

I always enjoy reading lists of former plays staged by societies over the years. It is like reading a catalogue of old friends as I have either seen, performed in or directed many of them. Writing in the introduction to the programme Chairman Paul Armitt says the Hall Players' avowed aim is to present entertainment and escapism by employing high standards. I am happy to confirm this aspiration was fully achieved on the night we were members of the audience. 

The welcome on our arrival was first class. Happy smiling faces with a nice line in banter go a long way to making audiences feel they are valued. Thank you especially to the charming lady who let me have 3 biscuits at the interval. (Shocking!)

Ayckbourn chooses in “Time Of My Life” to challenge us with a complex time frame. Set in an Italian restaurant over a period of two years the play moves backwards and forwards. Of course in our own lives we can never actually know if the time we are living in happens to be “the time of our lives”. It is only by looking back and making comparisons with what has occurred since that we can attempt such judgements. By then of course time has again moved on, as it always must and always will.

With the family sitting at a long table, reminiscent of the last supper, the play’s talking point  is concerned with exploration of the often unsatisfactory ways we communicate. As Laura, Carol Buckley showed us a woman used to getting her own way: argumentative, brandy-loving, uncompromising and hypocritical. Laura is arguably the most interesting role with more to analyse in her motivation than the others. Carol gave us a performance of unrelenting power. As her husband, Gerry, Paul Armitt was her equal: a businessman first and foremost with concerns for his family coming a poor second. 

Glyn is written as an unsympathetic character. He has suffered the slings and arrows thrown at him by his parents and yet we see him, in Tom Armitt’s creation, struggling valiantly to make his own personality shine through regardless. His brother Adam was, we are told, treated differently as a child, yet has managed to be just as confused about the course of his life as his older sibling. Simon Bentham was outstanding. Stephanie, his wife, is the most sympathetic of all the characters. Diana Jackson demonstrated a rounded personality worthy of support and close attention. Diana’s performance was well modulated and complex. Maureen, the hairdresser with a dazzling array of wigs and outfits, went with the flow: an outsider able to comment on the mad goings on and speak her mind without fear of reprisal. I warmed to Becca Paterson’s interpretation.  In truth Becca could have stolen the show had it not been for the antics of Dominic Swarbrick. It is remarkable what a few changes of hair styles and different shirts can do for a man! Ayckbourn has given the waiter character(s) the opportunity to add high comedy to the essentially tragic proceedings. We think of the porter in the Scottish play. Many  laughs came courtesy of Dominic’s mastery of the stage. The audience warmed to him. 

The director,  Maureen Nickson ,accentuated the messages the script offers to us as watchers. We were handed hints we could consider applying to our own lives. As a result the play was both disturbing and amusing. This was direction of the highest order. It belies a very firm hand on the tiller to have accomplished such a solid outcome. One small cavil however. I felt more could have been made of the two waitresses. They might have been given bits of business to do, typical dare I say, of the strange management ethic of the cafe.(?)

This was a wonderful production by a company clearly comfortable at playing near the top of the amdram Premier League.Thank you for creating such a high-class evening of quality entertainment.

P.R.M.