Some luminous performances helped this fast moving study of the elusive search for happiness deliver a powerful opening night punch.
Ayckbourn uses multiple time-shifts in this play to continually shed new light on the frequent meetings of the Stratton family, all in the slightly bizarre setting of the Essa de Calvi restaurant.
In a style reminiscent of J. B. Priestley's Time plays, the action starts with the family assembled around the table for the ridiculously snobbish mother, Laura's, birthday.
A frightening character, convincingly played by Jennifer Cowling, Laura is a cold woman, dismissive of everyone except her younger son, Adam.
The pragmatic but kind-hearted father, Gerry, skilfully played by Alan Harwood, struggles with his wife's misanthropy while trying his best to make Adam's new girlfriend, Maureen, feel welcome.
Meanwhile, the third couple at the table, older son Glyn and his wife Stephanie, are still trying to get over some painful marital crisis.
Lucy Beckwith delivered a terrific study in vulnerability on Wednesday as the plain-spoken and fun-loving hairdresser Maureen. Michael Crewe complemented her well as the idealistic boyfriend Adam, smitten by her and embarrased by her in equal measure.
As the action starts to jump between past and future, betrothals and break-ups and life and death, apparently throw-away lines start to take on a prophetic power.
We see Glyn, an assured performance by Lawrence Conyers, following his mother's example in selfishness in his calm infidelity to his wife, Stephanie.
Victim becomes victor however as Stephanie, a sympathetic study by Christine Norton, takes control and finds her own happiness.
But this is an Ayckbourn play, and that means that among the anguish and the misanthropy, rejection and infidelity, humour is never far away.
Cue Paul Dunstan who played five different waiters of dubious ethnic origin but good singing voices, with style.
With an impressive range of facial expressions, bizarre wigs and accents, his characters provide vital light relief at some of the play's darker moments.
The play ends back at the original dinner party, with a speech full of optimism, by Gerry Stratton, undermined by the audiences knowledge of what is to come.
"There's not many times in your life that you can say to yourself - At this moment, I am happy" he says. " I would like it if this could be one of those times"
And for this member of the audience, strangely enough, it was.