Table Manners

Date 26th November 2015
Society Bovingdon Players
Venue Village Hall, Bovingdon
Type of Production Drama
Director Roddy Shand


Author: Nova Horley

The action set during July 1973 revolves round the goings on in the dining room of a middle class home in the country.  Six members of a disparate family come together in a jumble of false joviality and resentment.

The setting of the play was traditional; “the dining room of a Victorian vicarage-type house” and the set had been dressed competently.  I do wonder though if the dining room may have had a few more bits of clutter scattered around as it fitted the purpose but felt slightly sparse.

There were a few instances where the cast had difficulty with the door at upstage left – sometimes not closing it hard enough, or maybe forgetting to close it, making it too much of a feature.

Overall I particularly enjoyed the dinner scene; with the musical chairs element being a good comic touch which was slick.  I liked the nostalgic element whereby when families get together there are often odd chairs and someone has to sit on a tiny chair or stool!  Although this was part of Ayckbourn’s script the Director and actors paid close attention to this detail and I appreciated that.

I felt a little uncomfortable during the first scene change where, save for music of the era there was a long gap whilst the actors changed costumes.  Norman being the only person who was not in the previous scene, I wonder whether he could have come on stage and established his character earlier.

Christina Payne as Sarah had a laidback and easy style which was comfortable to watch.  She came across well as the upper-class neurotic prude, gradually working herself into a rage.  She was diligent in her attempts to keep the family in order - right down to insisting where they should sit at the dinner table!  I felt that I would have liked her to be more overbearing, patronising and generally “over the top” during the first scene with Annie so as to highlight the contrast between the two characters.  That said, I noticed the contrast; Annie was noticeably pale and disheveled in comparison to the well made-up and coiffed Sarah, who I found difficult to hear at times.

I enjoyed Lisa Harbon’s portrayal of the patient, downtrodden Annie.  She showed her frustration at her lot in life well.  I would have liked to see more contrast emotionally when Annie was talking to Sarah initially about her encounter with Norman.  As the scene went on and Annie was laughing hard I felt she had warmed up, but initially the excitement and passion of the frivolity of what had happened with Norman was not marked enough for me.

Iain King played Reg very well.  He had a relaxed style as the character and it was evident that he was living the part.  Some of his asides and punchlines were lost.  He did a good of job of making me wonder how on earth he and Sarah got together!

Sean Chalkright played the blissfully unaware Tom well.  As Annie’s would-be suitor I would have liked to see him accentuate his awkward nature more but on the whole I was comfortable with his performance.  It was a good punch!

John Mower as Norman was excellent.  He was very expressive facially and vocally, gave the character the necessary manic edge and was irritating and child-like all at once!  I particularly enjoyed his monologue where he was mimicking Annie; extremely well done.

Sharon Gaffney played the “original irrational woman”, Ruth, extremely well.  I liked her portrayal of the self-obsessed, melodramatic career woman.  Poor Norman – she certainly patronised him well enough to make me as an audience member feel sorry for him.  She had a strong, confident stage presence which I very much enjoyed.

The cast overall dealt with silences extremely well, giving them meaning.  They all coped admirably with the scenes in which they were eating and drinking; interacting well with each other and it was noticeable that they were not rushing to get next lines out robotically, but setting the scene and letting it play out emotionally and intelligently.

Bovingdon Players performed this treasured piece of British theatre well.  There was chemistry between characters, sensitivity to the script and the comedy timing was enjoyable to watch.