Friday, 14 June 2019

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: The Time Of My Life - The Lyceum Theatre, Oldham.


After a lengthy break from the venue - since my debut attending, when I saw their production of Heroes back in the late end of last year - it was a pleasure to return to Oldham’s Lyceum theatre, which is somewhat concealed, to witness their production of Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy Time Of My Life. I should say “one of” as this highly-acclaimed playwright has a catalogue of roughly 80 plays to choose from.

His sarcastic wit and intellectual humour is evident throughout and excellently, and naturally, delivered by the whole cast. The plot follows the Strattons’ family meal at their regular Italian restaurant, ‘The Essa de Calvi’, initially for the 54th birthday of Laura (mother, played by Maggie Blaszczok), organised by her husband Gerry (dad, played by Phil Clegg). Both are clearly well-versed actors (but I am unsure as there is no biography in the programme) and their chemistry, or rather dynamics, is very good, especially in times of anxiety and tension among their characters. As well as this meal, which will be a night to remember for sure, which we return to throughout after the rest of the family have left, we see a dual and reversed time path of their children (adult sons) and their partners (girlfriends).

Glyn (Gavin Stamper) and his partner Stephanie (Angela Bryan) showcase their life together from their first date to their latest break-up, showing the time of expecting the second of their children. Their relationship is under strain due to Glyn’s work commitments, or so it seems, and desire and decision to pursue an affair. Their chemistry is also good but I did feel something was missing from their partnership, sincere closeness perhaps but that can be expected in the circumstances of the relationship of their characters. Thinking back though, it seems odd that their plot should take us from their first date to the time of the family meal but it actually took us up to when they had broken up and Stephanie was in a slightly better place emotionally, with more confidence. Stephanie’s transition from innocent and broken-down woman to in control and able to cope was inspiring and was well-executed.

The third and final piece of the puzzle that we follow - as well as Colin Smith (who wrote the theatre’s last play ‘Play’) who portrays three very different waiters within the restaurant, assisted by Scott Morris who helps to set the tables for the different scenes - is Adam (Joe Doughty) and his girlfriend/fiancee, Maureen (Kimberley Bates). Despite being more on-edge and slightly more naive, Adam - Laura’s favourite of the two sons - tries to be a romantic and put his lady at ease so that his parents will love her, whilst still suggesting ways for her to act at dinner, that will still meet with their approval, not that is matters as they are happy and steam ahead as a couple regardless. The chemistry between Adam and Maureen grows, even though their plot theme is from the last date before the birthday meal up to their first meeting, when they got one another confused with the other people they were supposed to be meeting, also at Calvinu’s (the restaurant owner) - Adam’s a potential employee for his father’s business. The couple are played out well.

I did touch briefly on the set, designed by director Melvyn Bates, and it is brilliant in concept and construction. A corridor to the entrance of the restaurant and toilets to stage left and three sections/tables set for the action of the two junior couples and a large table to the rear of the stage for the birthday meal party, set with decorations and gifts mentioned in the script, as per stage directions. The decor of the restaurant is simple yet effective with matching chairs, linen and labeled pictures of places in Italy on the walls. Breaking down the fourth wall, we were engrossed and really did feel part of the setting.

The most striking, and perhaps surprising, scenes were between Gerry and Laura and their, on the face of it, happy marriage, but we soon discover the reality of Laura’s small and historic one night fling with someone close to Gerry. Whilst a shock, this revelation does provide some humour and their clear chemistry and desire to remain faithful, if even just to maintain their ‘non-sexual marriage’, is powerful and empowering, even if Laura is stubborn, proud and a tad bigoted.

The whole show is a pleasure to watch and should not be missed for the remainder of its run.

Reviewer - John Kristof
on - 10/6/19

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