Review of Time and the Conways, the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Actor and JBPS member Colin Stirling-Whyte went to see a play he knows well, Priestley’s Time and the Conways, at his ‘local’, the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh.

Here is his review:

This production at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum was performed by the Dundee Repertory Company which has a well-deserved reputation for first-class acting. They did not let us down. Fellow-members of the JBPriestley Society don’t need me to tell them what a marvellous play this is. What a shame, then, that the play opened on an entirely inappropriate set! Instead of the cosy 1919 sitting-room with glowing fireplace, bookcases, and passable pictures, we found ourselves looking at a huge wall running the full width of the stage and restricting the cast to downstage. There was no shred of
comfort; just a few dining chairs and one large low table. The arched window in the large wall was the only vestige of the set as described by JB. In Act 3 this facilitated the concept of parallel lives, with actors floating about in the half-light beyond the window – but one expects the play to start at the beginning. So for the first ten minutes my appreciation of the acting was obscured by resentment at the play’s pretending to be in a comfortable house when it looked like the holding area of an X-ray clinic.
But then the acting really began to get to me. Although much of Act 1 is quite frothy stuff, of no great apparent importance, my knowledge of, and love for, the play kept me interested; I knew how
good it was going to get. Acts 1 and 2 were played in continuum – separated by only a brief light-dim when a shadowy crew brought on a wee table – there was nothing to indicate the passage of twenty years. I was grinding my teeth at this, but then the costumes, the make-up, the script and the players won me over again.
The quiet humble yet dignified Richard Conlon as Alan; the eager, questioning wistful Emily Winter as Kay; the towering majesty of Irene Macdougal (Mrs Conway); the soured and bitter Sally Reid
(Madge); Jessica Tomchak as the lovely yet depressed and repressed Hazel; Martin McBride as the defiant chancer, drinker and part-time father Robin, with Nicola Harrison pathetically pitiful as the Joan to whom he has brought parenthood but no support; and finally – and unforgettably powerful – Andy Clark as the vengeful and ruthless Ernest Beevers. They all gripped me with their total sincerity, and so did Molly Vivers and Jamie Lee – an ensemble of first-rate actors.
But, of course, what makes this play the outstanding experience that it always has been for me (since – playing Robin – I listened in the wings) is the closing scene of Act 2, as Alan explains to Kay that “Time does not destroy anything – at any moment we are just a cross section of ourselves; time merely moves us on – what we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all of our time.” Act 3 started very faithfully to the script; it was clearly an invitation to wonder if Kay had indeed had a
huge premonition, sitting in 1919 imagining 20 years hence in a few seconds; full marks for that. I had a very few niggles about the direction but overall, apart from the dreadful set, I rated this production an extremely worthy 4 stars. It runs till 30th March, having transferred to
its home in Dundee – I might just sneak in again!

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