Interview: The Press (17 April 1992)

This interview was published in the Yorkshire Evening Press on 17 April 1992.

Alan's Moments Of Truth

by Charles Hutchinson

How much time is spent actually living in the present?

"I have this theory that we spend most of our lives looking forward to things or looking back," said Alan Ayckbourn, as Scarborough audiences look forward to next week's world premiere of his 44th full-length play.

He describes
Time Of My Life as being 'like a three-way Priestley play'.

"He's {Priestley] the playwright most associated with time plays, while Harold Pinter played around with time in
Betrayal, but I don't think three-way time has been done before."

In his latest stage trick, Ayckbourn goes 3-D as three couples celebrate a happy family gathering in a restaurant. Is it all as harmonious as it seems? What secrets lie buried in the past? What hidden tensions lurk beneath the present surface? What awaits them all in the future? What do the waiters make of it all?

"Essentially, it's a family play about our perception of moments," says Ayckbourn. "The play explores the family's lives, past, present and future. All of them are in search of personal happiness but, as is so often the case, they're hard pressed to recognise it even when they find it."

One couple travels forward, one backwards, meeting the third in the middle, in the restaurant.

"Each journey reflects the other journey, so that you learn more about each person." Once at the table, of course, another factor takes over. "In a restaurant, even more so in a family gathering, it is hard to get up from the table. People are put face to face with each other when they're never normally faced by that situation. Unless you're going to make a scene, you tend to sit grimly through it for two hours!"

Time Of My Life finds Ayckbourn returning to close human relationships after a series of "wider plays dealing with bigger issues". The play is fuelled by his alarm at the traditional family mealtime being replaced by microwave culture, where everyone eats separately.

"As the dining table and kitchen table are taken away as meeting places, we turn more and more to screens, computer games or whatever," said Ayckbourn.

Copyright: Charles Hutchinson. This edited transcription and the end-notes have been compiled and researched by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.