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Time of My Life (New Playhouse, Manchester)

Troublehouse Theatre bring Alan Ayckbourn’s social comedy ''Time of My Life'' to life in a brand new production.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Time of My Life may be twenty-two years old but it's still as fresh and as entertaining as ever as Troublehouse Theatre bring Alan Ayckbourn's social comedy to life in a brand new production.

New Playhouse

Directed by Barry Evans, the play tells the story of the Stratton family in a play that transcends three time zones, all in one evening. We join northern magnate Gerry (Ben Rigby) and his wife Laura (Hilly Barber) as they celebrate Laura's forty-ninth birthday with their two sons and partners at a busy restaurant.

The family have been coming to the same restaurant for decades and it is here that playwright Alan Ayckbourn starts to play with time. We are invited to eavesdrop on different conversations with three tables occupying a different stream in time in the family's lives.

In scenes at tables in the foreground, younger son Adam (Barney Cooper) takes us back in time, as we witness how he met his common yet likeable hairdresser girlfriend Maureen (Amey Woodhall). Philandering elder son Glyn (Rick Bithell) takes the story forward, as we find out what happened after the party and watch the sad developments of his marriage to wife Stephanie (Elinor Dixon) unfold. In between, we are treated to snippets of the end of the meal, when the sons have departed and the parents get drunk, resulting in Laura making a shock confession that is destined to blight their lives forever.

Manchester's New Playhouse's intimate venue provides the perfect setting for the play, with the audience sat close to the action and directly addressed at times. The format works well with Ayckbourn's clever use of social commentary drawing you into the piece.

The real drivers of the play, of course are the characters. Rick Bithell and Elinor Dixon are excellent as Glyn and Stephanie, as are Barney Cooper and Amey Woodhall as Adam and Maureen, with the latter providing some much needed light relief with their funny innuendos and infectious comic timing.

Ben Rigby is strong as Gerry, the proud and smug father who is too wrapped up in his business to notice his marriage slipping away. Hilly Barber is also impressive as Laura, the stubborn, unsympathetic and self-centred mother, who can't help but spoil the evening by opening her big mouth and meddling in her children's lives. The play finishes with an important message about living for the moment and appreciating the here and now, as we never realise how happy we really are until it's too late.

Harsh, funny, simple and cunning, Troublehouse Theatre present a wonderful revival of Alan Ayckbourn's play of love, loyalty and family affairs. A strong performance by a talented cast.

Time of My Life is at New Playhouse, Manchester until Saturday 22nd November.

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