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posted/updated: 20 Dec 2011 -
Time of My Life
Alan Ayckbourn
society/company: Putney Theatre Company (directory)
performance date: 17 Dec 2011
venue: Putney Arts Theatre
reviewer/s: Brittany Rex (Sardines review)

Alan Ayckbourn’s "Time of My Life", was performed with terrific energy by Putney Theatre Company. The play is both heart-wrenching and funny, but overall fails to miss the mark of a truly great play. I felt the script lacked surprise and intrigue, and the tone of writing teetered from very sad to hilariously funny with a lack of balance. In short, it is a play about bad marriages. Despite this, the actors delivered well over the mark and continued to exceed expectations in every scene. Time of My Life takes place in the restaurant The Essa de Calvi, where its owner and four waiters share an uncanny family resemblance (they are all played with multi-roleing brilliance by Richard Brent). We begin at a birthday party for Laura (Holly Hayes), who is celebrating with her husband Gerry (Henry Finlay), their son Glyn (Jonathan Tilley), his wife Stephanie (Carla Ritchie), and their younger son Adam (Harry Ward) and his girlfriend Maureen (Ann-Marie Agwunobi). A few too many cocktails later, as the evening is winding down, we realize that action is just winding up. The author keeps us in the restaurant, but follows Glyn and Stephanie into the future and Adam and Maureen into the past, while Gerry and Laura stay in the present. Ayckbourn comments on family, work, relationships, and of course food, but ultimately his manipulation of past, present and future suggest that living in the moment is the best time of all.
It was evident from the outset that the cast were in their director’s (Clare Frances Martin) capable hands. Ms. Martin appears to simply let the play happen, and though you know it's vastly more complicated than that, you never stop to think about how she did it. The stage areas were all used to the full and were very pleasing to the eye. Not once did I ever catch any “upstaging” or unnatural moves often seen at other amateur theatres. James Rowland and Barney Hart Dyke are to be commended for the clever set design, allowing audience members to sit on the stage at bistro tables, observing the action as if they were eavesdropping over their dinner.

Henry Finlay (recently seen as Col Pickering in Pygmalion) is entirely delightful in the role of Gerry. He is also to be commended for his Northern accent and excellent diction and projection. Holly Hayes plays Laura with quick biting sarcasm and dead-sure coming timing. Jonathan Tilley plays Glyn with a well delivered cold resistance that leaves none of us feeling sorry for him when he finally gets what he deserves after repeatedly cheating on his wife. Carla Ritchie turns in a brilliant performance as Stephanie. She strikes a harmonious balance between the desperate longing to please her husband and a new found confidence she achieves after her journey through time. We really do feel for Stephanie, and the author wrote this character with the most depth of any. Harry Ward delivers a sweet and dreamy Adam which balances Ann-Marie Agwunobi’s in yer face hairdresser Maureen (displaying excellent vocal work and characterisation). This couple are to be commended for their terrific comedic timing and onstage chemistry. Special mention however, must go to Richard Brent. His excellent portrayal of all four waiters and restaurant owner couldn't be bettered. He not only changed his physical appearance, voice, gestures, stance, and accent – he sang!

In the two previous Putney Theatre Company shows I've seen, you get the feeling that you're watching a true ensemble at work on stage, one whose members know and trust one another. Make sure to check out this company’s next season, you won’t be disappointed.

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