IT’S always a challenge when you’re an actor wrestling with a character, trying to get under his or her skin and understand them completely.

But Nathan Thompson will be really stretched when he performs as four seperate waiters and a restaurant owner in Sanderling Productions version of Alan Aykbourn’s Time of my Life, at the Palace Theatre’s Dixon Studio, in Westcliff, next week.

The play, a bittersweet comedy, follows the fortunes of a family as they eat together in a restaurant, then again as seperate couples, with the play picking up at various points in their lives.

Presiding over and linking their stories is restaurant owner Calvinu and four waiters, Dinka, Tuto, Bengie and Aggi, all of whom are played by Nathan, in accordance with Aykbourn’s original directions.

East 15 theatre school graduate Nathan says: “The characters I play link all the people together in a way.” As well as the obvious difficulties of lightning costume changes, there’s also the trickiness of giving each waiter his own distinct, believable personality and the physical challenge of juggling a long list of props.

While the rest of the cast had to wait until the dress rehearsal to get into their costumes, Nathan has been rehearsing in costume for longer to adjust to the speedy changes.

“I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the wig on the right way and that I’m being the right person,” he laughs.

But despite having to master each character individually, Nathan admits he does have a favourite, the surly, bad-tempered Dinka.

He says: “He is the sort of waiter who never smiles. He does his job and he does it pretty well, but he’s just constantly rude.”

Time of My Life Dixon Studio, Palace Theatre, London Road, Westcliff.

September 20-24. 7.45pm.

Thursday and Saturday matinee 3pm £11-£12.50 01702 351135