The Time Of My Life

On set with the Helmdon Bridge Players

As is always the case the Bridge players summer production was an event to be savoured. Paul Underwood, making his directorial debut, chose an Alan Ayckbourn play The Time of My Life. This is a challenging piece, set in one venue, a Mediterranean restaurant, but travelling backwards and forwards in time and depicting the unravelling through various causes of a family. Love, old and new, death, debt and infidelity, are all explored. The undeniable pathos and poignancy of the play is offset by the presence of five waiters who are witnesses to the unfolding drama. In this case all five are played with brio by David Derbyshire. All of the qualities of comic invention, timing, gravitas and stamina that, over the years, we have come to associate with David Derbyshire, were brought together in a performance that had the audience snorting with laughter.

Claire Brotherton, who is new to the Bridge players, played the role of the mother of the family who tells her husband a secret about herself that would have been best left unsaid. Claire's ability to convey her state of mind through facial expressions told us as much about her as the lines she delivered. Her husband in the play, David Bridger, is a self-made business man, jingling with heavy jewellery and money, who considers himself very much the head to the family. As the evening wears on his composure wears a little thin and adds to the bittersweet humour of the play.

The adult sons of this couple are played by Simon Wallace and Paul Stothard (another newcomer to the group). Simon is his mother's favourite and is being cosseted by her while he finds his niche in life. He has chosen this family occasion to introduce his new girlfriend to the family. The girlfriend is played by Bryony Coates, whose desire to impress the family takes a backward turn when she is sick in the toilet. Later in the play, Bryony nearly steals the show when she is demonstrating her after dinner plans to her boyfriend, and elicits guffaws of laughter from the audience. Simon Wallace conveyed beautifully an air of total bemusement and love for Bryony, but is still so concerned with her impact on his family that ultimately he returns to this mother's side.

Dave Bridger, Jo Ezzy and Paul Stothard as Gerry,
Steph and Glyn respectively.

Paul Stothard is the older son who works in the family business. Evidently he is kept on a pretty short rein by his father, who can't delegate, but he still finds time to be unfaithful to his wife. When the play opens Paul and his dowdy wife have recently been reconciled. The wife is played by Jo Fitzroy-Ezzy whose fortunes improve while those of her philandering husband decline. So we see Paul Stothard at the end of the play, shattered by his wife's request for divorce. She has emerged from all her marital disappointments into a gloriously glamorous woman ready to face a promising future. One wants to give her a cheer but Paul plays his part with such poignancy it would seem heartless to do so.

The back stage people were all on hand to promote the smooth running of yet another great production. Barry and Ann Cruise do deserve a special mention though, for creating mounds of spaghetti, chocolate puddings and glasses of drink, all at different stages of consumption corresponding to different stages in the play. The lighting was vital in the audience's understanding of the plot and thanks to Sam Blackwell for undertaking this important role.

Report by Christine Bridger

Click here for more photos (on