Stephen Joseph Theatre
2 August 2005 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews The inclusion of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1971 success, , in the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s 50th anniversary celebrations provides an admirable opportunity to compare early-mid period Ayckbourn with the supercharged 21st-century version. In truth, though Time and Time Again stands up well 34 years on and the new production is always thoroughly entertaining, it does seem a little cautious by the side of the current Time and Time Again . Improbable Fiction
It’s easy to see why Ayckbourn was once thought of as simply a master of the comedy of manners, and even easier with hindsight to recognise the stiletto concealed in the gardening glove. He works with conventional types, to be sure – the boorish self-opinionated businessman, his patient long-suffering wife, the keen young sports-mad executive and his too-attractive fiancée – but with unconventionally acute insight and a willingness to confront unpleasantness. The businessman, for instance, is genuinely (and creepily) obnoxious, with no lovable little traits to flatter the audience.
There is also that great Ayckbourn archetype, the man so selfish he doesn’t notice his selfishness, the unworldly failure who, with no malice aforethought, manages to wreck the lives of his friends and relations. Here it is Leonard (played with effortless insouciance by
Giles New), the former teacher and ejected husband who has foisted himself on his sister Anna ( Eileen Battye) and her appalling husband Graham ( John Branwell), but whose most meaningful relationship seems to be with Bernard, the garden gnome.
Beginning after the funeral of Anna and Leonard’s mother, the play’s four scenes take us through six months of collapsing relationships in a fivesome also including the eager Peter (
Neil Grainger), Graham’s star employee, and his fiancée Joan ( Laura Doddington). Ayckbourn provides a brief survey of the English sporting year (the set includes “part of a recreation field”) and his usual beady-eyed dissection of family disharmony. But the main motor of a straightforward, but never predictable, plot is the effect of the delectable Joan on three pretty inadequate males.
Michael Holt’s masterly re-creation of conservatory and garden (complete with pond – crucially so) is a practical delight and, as director, Ayckbourn himself secures perfectly balanced performances from his excellent cast - nearly all of whom are also playing in . During September, it’s possible to catch the two plays on successive nights, a highly recommended course of action and a fascinating comparison. Improbable Fiction
- Ron Simpson
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK Infographic When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t... Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d... Brief Encounter with ... The Kite Runner's Ben Turner Ben Turner stars in the stage version of the bestselling book The Kite Runner, which runs at Liverpo... Titus Andronicus (RSC) This latest production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, to borrow from football punditry, is a p... : Britain's outdoor theatres Take Five With half-term approaching, the weather (hopefully) set to improve for the bank holiday weekend and ... West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar... : 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders' Robert Sean Leonard Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K... To Kill A Mockingbird Twenty years ago, a young Robert Sean Leonard appeared on the London stage with Alan Alda in... X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L... Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...