Miss Yesterday: Reviews


Time Travel To Take You Back To Your Conscience (by Sam Marlowe)
"Tammy Laidlaw's life is a mess. Everything she touches turns to failure and her parents just don't understand her. Worse, her older brother is handsome, clever and adored by all. When tragedy turns the family's cosy middle-class existence upside down, there seems to be little point in going on.
Then a seemingly chance encounter with a mysterious woman presents Tammy with the opportunity to travel back in time and change the course of events, averting disaster. But at what cost - and where will the chain reaction end?
Alan Ayckbourn's new piece, which he also directs, is billed as "a family play". Sophisticated (how many shows this Christmas will refer to chaos theory?) and multilayered, it's thoughtful enough to satisfy adults; laced with wit and cynicism for teen appeal; and its sense of fun, its sci-fi fantasy element and gripping plot will please children, too.
It's all delivered with Ayckbourn's hallmark structural ingenuity. As well as shifting back and forth in time, the play employs a freeze-frame device by which, at pivotal moments, the action halts and we hear what Tammy is thinking. The technique yields some priceless comedy, but it also has a deeper theatrical purpose.
Each time that our hapless heroine faces another choice, we are reminded of all the tiny crossroads we meet on the daily path of our own lives. Even as we are entertained, and we certainly are, we are uncomfortably and repeatedly impelled to examine our own conscience.
Along the way, the play confronts issues of loss, sacrifice and forgiveness, of individual integrity and wider social responsibility. It has its odd creaky moment of over-earnest pop psychology, but the force of its emotional and intellectual thrust sweeps them aside.
We laugh as we watch Tammy's surgeon father and therapist mother - both, tellingly, members of the caring professions - struggling to communicate with their truculent, disappointing daughter. But the humour becomes poignant when later it gives way to an image of the family united in grief. It's a powerful tonal shift, and Ayckbourn manages it with consummate skill.
Laura Doddington is a wonderful blend of stroppy little girl and intelligent, emergent young woman as Tammy, while Philip York and Eileen Battye are a delicately judged double act as her well-meaning, despairing parents. And Susan Twist is suitably enigmatic and, in the end, deeply affecting as the eerily watchful stranger who holds the key to the play's puzzle. Terrific."
(The Times, 7 December 2004)

Miss Yesterday (by Alfred Hickling)
"No one could accuse Alan Ayckbourn of shirking the big issues in his children's dramas. Yet he surpasses himself here with a seasonal entertainment about low self-esteem, road traffic accidents and cancer - something to depress the whole family.
Tammy is a troubled teenager, undervalued by her parents and overshadowed by the academic and sporting achievements of her handsome older brother. When this scintillating sibling is snuffed out in a motorcycle smash, Tammy rather fortuitously runs into a strange woman in the park who explains that it is possible to wind the clock back.
Tammy nips back 24 hours to avert the catastrophe, but is paid another visit by her mysterious sponsor, now revealed to be a future incarnation of herself, riddled with an incurable disease. The only way to solve this is to go back and let her brother drive into a lorry after all.
To be fair, Ayckbourn does round things off with a redemptive coda: Tammy is seen to collect the Nobel prize, having discovered a cure for cancer. But it's all a bit cursory and scant emotional consolation for watching Ryan Early's very personable golden boy whizz off to his death on either side of the interval.
Laura Doddington does sterling work as the traumatised Tammy, and creates a touching rapport with Susan Twist's cancer-stricken elder version. But by this point, I saw something I never thought to see at an Ayckbourn family show: tots squirming in their seats, less than entranced. In fact, the biggest squeals of admiration were drawn each time the fated motorcycle appeared, which can't have been the point at all."
(The Guardian, 21 December 2004)

Miss Yesterday (by Dave Windass)
"Christmas doesn't play a part in Alan Ayckbourn's annual gift for all the family. The writer-director prefers to offer up his own particular brand of storytelling.
Miss Yesterday is set next summer, a time and place when troubled teen Tammy Laidlaw (Laura Doddington), struggling to get out of the shadows of 'perfect' brother Ian (Ryan Early), feels ignored by her upper middle class parents. We know all this quite quickly as Tammy, a stereotypical teen who communicates in silence, has the decency to narrate the tale for our benefit.
Tragedy strikes when Ian, whom Tammy's best pal Roz (Saskia Butler) has fallen in love with, has a fatal motorbike accident. This being Ayckbourn, Tammy is offered the chance to change her ways and avert the accident by travelling back in time. Back to the Future meets It's a Wonderful Life in this nonlinear feel-good play, which has a very cinematic feel.
John Pattison's mood music, Pip Leckenby's self-propelled sliding set - which draws gasps of delight from the young audience - and Ben Vickers' celluloid-replicating lighting are faultless. Doddington, who is a convincing teenager, works hard to maintain the attention of the audience, as does sidekick Butler. The rest of the cast aren't warranted the same amount of stage time but are all very adept.
Stories featuring time travel are, more often than not, moralistic. The morals here are something of a muddle but the end result is still a nice piece of entertainment."
(The Stage, 12 January 2005)

Yesterday's Child: Ayckbourn Serves Up Another Winner (by Charles Hutchinson)
"Life in your teens can be tough, unfair, even cruel, says playwright Alan Ayckbourn, age 65.
Now here are the teenage reasons for being unhappy, according to an "important statement by me, Tamara Elizabeth Laidlaw", age 15. Tammy says she is made to feel useless by other people; she is misunderstood by other people. Yes, her problem is not herself but.. .other people.
No sooner has troubled Tammy (Laura Doddington) made her list than she hears a piece of devastating news, a tragedy that will change her life forever in Ayckbourn's latest family show.
Running off to put as much distance as she can between herself and her life, she encounters The Stranger (Susan Twist) on a park bench, whereupon she is granted the chance to go back 24 hours to yesterday to rectify matters as Ayckbourn plays his What if? card once more with customary élan and magic.
Yesterday, the first half of the play, had begun with Tammy and best friend Roz Butcher (Saskia Butler) climbing the gates of their posh public school in the dead of night to photograph tomorrow's papers.
Tammy is caught, interviewed in grumpy silence by the police (Twist again) and brought home to her wealthy parents, plastic surgeon Andrew (Philip York) and counsellor Josie (Eileen Battye).
If only she could be more like her perfect brother Ian (Ryan Early), the golden student destined for medical school and a county cricket trial tomorrow, but then the aforementioned tragedy strikes.
Yesterday the replay, the play's second half, replicates the structure of the first half, with Tammy trying to change the course of the day, only ultimately to learn that the person she must change is herself and not other people.
Topical in the wake of Prince Charles's comments on teenage aspirations, this "serious comedy" is told with the clever aid of a running commentary by Tammy that serves as a diary cum Greek chorus and paints the picture from her point of view.
Laura Doddington, Ayckbourn's discovery of the year, makes you laugh, cry and feel sympathy and frustration in equal measure as she portrays a vulnerable rebel's time-travelling journey to self discovery. Marvellous performance, magical play."
(Yorkshire Evening Press, 13 December 2004)

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