Time of My Life

Date 28th April 2017
Society Winton Players
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Play
Director Brenda Adams

Report

Author: Mark Donalds

This ingenious play by the prolific Alan Aykbourn, premiered in Scarborough in April 1992 followed by a run in the West End in August 1993. It is still just as pertinent today, exactly twenty five years later, showing that we are always too busy worrying about the present to notice those moments when we are truly happy, until they have gone past. It all takes place in the Stratton family’s favourite restaurant as they celebrate the mother’s birthday, and takes us backwards and forwards in time showing us the relationship problems of each of the sons and also the parents, whose marriage had seemed rock solid.

The restaurant set was most impressive, with many authentic detail touches like the menus with inner pages, not just card outers, flowers on the tables, real food and, best of all, sound and light effects every time the door to the kitchen was opened. The staging was also well thought out, with the main action (in the present) set at the large table in the middle, while we got glimpses of the past and the future at smaller tables set on stage left and right respectively. Clever lighting changes allowed us to concentrate on where the action was taking place while the actors remained at the other tables, or changes were being made.

Characterisation throughout was well thought out and maintained. Eileen Riddiford shone as the mother, Laura, clearly showing her contempt for her dissolute son Glyn flitting from one relationship to another, and his doormat wife Stephanie. Her gradual intoxication as the evening progressed, leading to the revelation that she had a brief fling with her husband’s brother, was spot on.

Nick Witney was the archetypal business man, Gerry, always more concerned with his work than his wife and now struggling to keep the company – and his family - afloat. Lawrence Cook was a very believable elder son Glyn, never able to stay in a relationship for long even to please his mother and unable to save the company after his father’s death, being made redundant when it is taken over. His wife, Stephanie, was well portrayed by Anne-Lise Kadri, who positively bloomed after she shook off her useless husband and found a more satisfying relationship with a surgeon.

Man of the moment was Joe Dove, standing in at very short notice as younger son Adam, when Charlie Essex was taken into hospital. Despite having the script in his hand, he turned in an excellent performance putting in so much feeling and expression that you barely noticed the script. Adam’s girlfriend Maureen is a real peach of a part and Monika Jankowska really made it her own, extracting every last ounce of humour from it.

Lastly, but definitely not least, is the talented Dil Peeling who appeared in many outrageous guises as the restaurant owner and various waiters. He imbued each with a totally different character and appearance, using the most amazingly awful wigs, moustaches and eyebrows.

I was left with many questions in my mind – was Adam the result of Laura’s fling; was the car accident deliberate on Gerry’s part; and did Adam ever manage to untie the apron strings? I’ll never know, but it just shows how well Aykbourn and this talented cast and director developed the characters and how well the play engaged me and drew me in.

Hitherto not a huge fan of Ayckbourn, this was an excellent production. I thoroughly enjoyed the play, which was extremely well-acted, well-directed, and well-produced, with great attention to detail. A really good evening.