Play journeys through time as family falls apart

Time and the Conways

Time and the Conways - Credit: Archant

Not as well known as An Inspector Calls, J.B.Priestley’s play Time and the Conways is just as compelling in its own way.

For even though an exploration of the notion of time is at its heart, it is also a drama in its own right and one which gives a fascinating insight into human nature.

The Company of Ten is currently tackling Time and the Conways in the Abbey Theatre, St Albans - and to give them due credit, their production certainly gives you food for thought.

It really does make you wonder about time - whether or not it is possible to get a glimpse of the future and how the passage of years can change people.

The people in question are the Conway family headed by the widowed Mrs Conway with her six children whom we first meet at a happy party to celebrate Kay Conway’s 21st birthday.

The second act moves forward 20 years and presents a far from happy and united family while in the third act, the scene reverts to that same 21st birthday party - picking up where the first act left off.

It sounds complicated but as an exploration of the disintegration of a family and what signs can be seen long before it happens, it is an absorbing study both of time and human fallibility.

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Director Mark Waghorn clearly finds the play compelling and he has instilled that in his actors - from Chrystalla Spire’s family-centred but scheming matriarch Mrs Conway to James Douglas as the unmotivated Alan Conway.

Beccy Baird as Kay Conway is the constant throughout. As she gazes out of the window at the end of the first act, the actors come back on stage in what amounts to a dream sequence and transform the room to how it would be 20 years later - a very effective device.

Jenny Kilcast has the meaty role of Madge Conway - the political animal who becomes a top teacher but feels that in her family’s eyes she has failed in her profession and Matt Bailey is particularly impressive as Ernest Beevers, whose courtship and subsequent treatment of Hazel Conway, a fine performance from Jo Emery, is an absolute masterclass.

Singling out several characters is no reflection on the rest of the cast - they are all wholeheartedly committed to the play and it shows.

Time and the Conways runs until Saturday and tickets are available from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to