Time, time, time, see what’s become of me...

Time and the Conways

Time and the Conways - Credit: Archant

J.B.Priestley’s much-loved classic Time and the Conways - one of a series of plays which turn the concept of time on its head - is the next production from St Albans drama group, The Company of Ten.

The compelling family drama, which opens at the Abbey Theatre next Friday, February 6, is a portrait of Britain between two World Wars and a mind-knotting exploration of the concept of time.

The story revolves around the lives and loves of the Conway family - Mrs Conway and her six grown-up children.

In Act I, it is Kay Conway’s 21st birthday in 1919 and the family is looking forward to a prosperous future. In Act II, the action moves forward in time to the same night 19 years later, when the fate of each of the siblings is revealed.

Unusually, Act III then takes the audience back to the original party, armed with new and disturbing insights.

Director Mark Waghorn said: “Time and the Conways operates on many levels. At the heart of the play we have a universal human story, a family drama, but we also have a fascinating portrait of Britain between the Wars, with strong hints of the class arrogance and complacency that would soon lead the country into another major conflict.

“But what really gives the play its poignancy is the way it moves forwards and backwards in time. The idea came from Priestley’s reading of J.W. Dunne’s book, An Experiment with Time, in which the author proposed that all time – past, present and future – happens simultaneously, it’s just that human consciousness is only able to understand it as a series of consecutive events.

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“Both Dunne and Priestley believed that in dreams and trances, people could catch glimpses not only of their past but also of their future.

“As one of the characters explains, time does not destroy, it merely ‘moves on – in this life – from one peep hole to the next.’”

Mark explained that the time-lapse device had posed unique challenges for both cast and crew.

He said: “With one exception, the actors are all portraying younger and older versions of a single person, requiring them to think not only about physical differences but also the internal changes that shape their characters.

“Meanwhile, the backstage team has been faced with the challenge of how to present two different periods – 1919 and 1938 – in a single setting, while transitioning quickly between them.

“For all these reasons, this has been an engrossing production to work on, and we hope our audiences will enjoy this brief journey through time as much as we have.”

Performances are at 8pm tomorrow and Saturday, at 2.30pm on Sunday and again at 8pm from Tuesday, February 10, to Saturday, February 14.

To book tickets go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01727 857861.