There’s something about fringe theatre that really appeals to me. The close proximity of the audience to the action gives the drama an extra dimension that one does not get from the larger and more established West End theatres. There is an immediacy of performance and an intimacy which is quite unique and it can be incredibly moving and effective. So I was more than happy when TLE sent me down to the Tabard Theatre in Turnham Green for a new production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Time of my Life.
Another great thing about fringe theatres is that they are often above, or next to, pubs, which always enhances any theatrical experience. So my date for the night (my brother) and I bought our pints and headed upstairs into the cosy 96-seater venue.
What of the play itself? It is set in Yorkshire in a restaurant called Calvinu’s in the late 1980’s and is centred around Laura Stratton’s birthday meal with her husband Gerry, her son Glyn and daughter-in-law Stephanie, and her favourite son Adam and his new girlfriend Maureen. The evening begins pleasantly enough but soon tensions in the relationships between the various family members become apparent. The play cleverly juxtaposes future lives of Glyn and Stephanie and the previous history of Adam and Maureen, with the present relationship of Laura and Gerry – all taking place at different tables in the restaurant.
Ayckbourn’s script is humorous but as is often the case in his works he contrasts these moments with raw emotional intensity. There is an underlying commentary on social class and how things are not always as rosy as they first seem. Law Ballard’s simple but effective staging is perfect for the intimate space and allows each the audience to really engage with each character.
Tansy Adair was the standout performer as Glyn’s long-suffering wife Stephanie. The emotional extremes she portrayed were moving and to top it all off she had an almost impeccable Yorkshire accent. David Lucas and Joanna Pope as Gerry and Laura both excelled as bickering husband and wife. Pope in particular delivered Laura’s withering judgements of all her family members with typical Yorkshire honesty. Lucy Formby’s Maureen was enchanting as the working-class girlfriend/fiancée of Adam. She wore some absolutely awesome late 80’s costumes (by Bonnie Adair) that made me come over all nostalgic. Adam Wittek was a real delight playing Calvinu’s various waiters with impressive versatility and impeccable comic timing.
Despite a few dodgy Yorkshire accents the evening was a success. The cast all gave committed, honest performances of Ayckbourn’s brilliant play. He is one of Britain’s greatest ever playwright’s and if you are unfamiliar with his work, you should definitely go and see Time of my Life. Plus there’s pub downstairs. What’s not to like?
David is Sports Editor for The London Economic [email protected]_Sport
Time of my Life is running until the 28th of March. For more information visit www.tabardweb.co.uk/