Time of my Life is one of Alan Ayckbourn’s most popular plays from the 1990s and it premiered in the West End on 3 August 1993.
To mark the date, the blog has an article by Alan Ayckbourn in which his talks about his thoughts and inspirations behind a play which presents the past, future and the present all within the same play.
Time of my Life by Alan Ayckbourn
Time of my Life, first performed in 1992 is what I think of as me at my most J. B. Priestley-esque. I have, both as an actor and latterly as a director, long admired the great Yorkshire dramatist’s work.
I was attracted especially to his so-called ‘time’ plays, most particularly Time and the Conways. Its constructional conceit in setting its first and third acts in a single time period and the action in its middle second act several years into the future is quite inspired. We catch a glimpse of the varying fates of this middle-class family which, when we return to the third act, the characters themselves have yet to experience. A powerful use of dramatic irony when the audience are granted the somewhat devastating gift of foresight.
Thanks largely to Priestley, I have always considered Time one of the most valuable storytelling tools available to me as a dramatist. It’s also one of the first decisions I find I need to make before I set pen to paper. How long or how brief a time frame does my story require to be told? Years? Days? Or can it be told in mere minutes?
The overall premise of Time of my Life is that we should enjoy the present, live for now, not spending too much time looking backwards or forwards but savouring each moment as it happens. Although, regrets one of the characters Glyn, in a key speech, how difficult that is for most of us.
At the start, we witness the moment itself, a happy one, a mother’s sixtieth birthday party at a local restaurant surrounded by her family, her husband, her two sons and their respective womenfolk, the six of them finishing dinner together, slightly drunk and sharing a rare moment of enjoyment. Soon after, the narrative splits into three, following the elder son and his wife into the future in a succession of brief scenes taking us two years ahead. Similarly, we follow the younger son and his new girlfriend over a period of two months taking us backwards in time to their first meeting. Meanwhile, the parents remain at the table in ‘real’ time in a single continuous post-party scene in synchronicity with the audience who can thus view the moment itself from past, present and future viewpoints.
Hopefully, it’s not quite as complicated as it sounds!
But then, when was it ever simple to explain a stage device? When I think of the hours I’ve wasted trying to explain to someone who’s never seen it the basic principle of an earlier play, How the Other Half Loves. Often the conversation results in my saying, ‘Oh, please, just go and see it!’
You can find out more about Time of my Life at Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website by clicking here.
Article by Alan Ayckbourn and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.