Ayckbourn play is example of how they should be done
TIME OF MY LIFE
This week the Dixon studio was packed out for Alan Ayckbourn's 1992 Time of My Life, which proved once again that audiences' love affair with the playwright just keeps on growing.
At first sight, it's a bit of an odd affair, because a play like Time of My Life, while packed with well engineered comedy, is hardly comfort food.
Set entirely in a restaurant where two generations of a family gather for the mother's birthday celebration, it offers the usual ruthless dissection of suburban people and relationships, along with some intriguing experiments with the passage of time.
Ayckbourn rasps away at the surface of so-called ordinary life like an industrial sander, leaving all sorts of nerve-ends exposed. The compensation, apart from some of the best joke-lines in the business, comes from the characters he writes.
There is a second public love affair going on at the Dixon between Sanderling Productions' cast and the parts they play.
There is successful local businessman Gerry and his wife Laura, supposedly basking in the warmth of an old marriage, but are actually nursing old, dreary secrets; their two variously ineffectual sons Glyn and Adam; Maureen, the foul-mouthed hairdresser whom Adam brings to meet mum and dad and Stephanie, Glyn's superficially insipid wife.
Every one of these is a feast of a part, and every one of Sanderling's team make absolute nectar with the opportunities provided. It seems invidious to pick out particular performers from such an accomplished team, but I was particularly struck by Victoria Long, in the most low-key and possibly thankless of the parts.
She passes through a whole series of phases - cuckoldry, door-mattery, pregnancy, despair, new found confidence - in the time sequences of this play, and this actress, with maximum economy, establishes half a lifetime's journey in a few short scenes.
The same can be said for Nathan Thompson, playing the restaurant's proprietor and a variety of different waiters.
Older hands Bruce Moore and Joanne Seymour are also superb and younger hand Hayley Evenett proves once again she is a force to watch.
Ayckbourn dramas and Ayckbourn productions are of variable quality, but this is 24-carat stuff on both counts.
Southend Evening Echo
Friday September 23rd 2011
Stephen Barden (Glyn) and Victoria Long (Stephanie)