Premiering in the year of Alan Ayckbourn’s 80th birthday, Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present is his 83rd play.
It opens on the day of Micky’s 80th birthday party, before sweeping backwards through time for the birthdays of his wife Meg, his son Adrian, and, finally, his never seen daughter Sonia.
Ayckbourn continues to experiment with narrative structure – time and its passing play a central role in the play. There’s a pleasing familiarity to the characters: Micky, a hilarious Russell Dixon, is a cranky bus driver, while his practical, no-nonsense wife Meg is energetically played by Jemma Churchill. Accountant Adrian is played with endearing affability by Jamie Baughan, who somehow managing to keep Adrian’s sexually explosive reputation simmering throughout. Naomi Petersen multi-roles as all the other characters, making each one unique and recognisable – an exhausting task which she manages with aplomb.
Ayckbourn’s dialogue is crisp and entertaining and his direction of his own play assured as ever, marshalling the fast-paced plot without ever becoming overbearing.
Kevin Jenkins’ set is ingeniously creative. Ayckbourn handles the long set changes with precision. The choreography of sideboards being transformed into ottomans and beds into sofas is made an integral part of the show.
In his 83rd play, in his 80th year, Ayckbourn shows no signs of either slowing down or of losing his touch.