Time and Time Again

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich


Time and Time Again dates from 1971. By then, Alan Ayckbourn had discovered exactly how to build a laughter train and keep it running at top speed.

In this production by Rhett Davies, who also designs the splendid set, a Maddermarket cast of five climbs on board and holds on tightly.

The farce rattles over the points, charging through even when the signals seem to say stop, and never misses a branch line when it promises an amusing little detour.

An old buffer, in the substantial form of Eric Mawer, stands at one end. He has the renowned Yorkshire charm of blunt frankness, never depriving anyone of a piece of his mind, and enjoys a good guffaw until it sticks in his throat. He smells trouble and he spells trouble, even though his wife, played by Judi Daykin, always tries to pour tea on troubled waters.

The difficult, glorious and hilarious problem lies with Leonard. Pale-skinned, fair-haired, slight of stature, Trevor Burton makes him a Chekhovian picture of detachment. He's happier not to relate, which naturally makes him all the more attractive.

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Enter Alice Brown, as Joan, a nice girl and a gladsome summer sight in her bikini, and Adam Gaine, in the role of her fiancé, is sure to be a loser.

What more do you need? Well, Ayckbourn adds a thousand jokes, a running gag about a gnome and, as we are in Yorkshire, football and cricket. After his inevitable duck, Leonard is sent to field at extra cover. The way he says it, it sounds like exile to Siberia, but he doesn't languish long.

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