Last night I took another visit to The Capitol Horsham to see Table Manners which is the first in a trilogy of plays by Alan Ayckbourn set over a tense family weekend in the country.
Each of the plays depicts the same six characters in a different part of a house and can be watched independently and in any order.Table Manners happens to be set in the dining room.
Poor Annie (Jo Castleton) needs a break – she is the sole carer for her invalid mother and desperately in need of a holiday, unfortunately the love of her life, local vet bumbling Tom (Ben Roddy) is far more interested in animals and food that he has no idea how to communicate with her, let alone take her away.
When her brother Reg (Marcus Hutton) and his wife Sarah (Polly Smith) come for the weekend to enable her to go away, they assume it is with Tom and are quite shocked to find she has been fraternising with their sister Ruth’s husband, the womanising Norman (David Callister) who has promised to take her on a romantic weekend away to non other than East Grinstead! (Theatre South East’s base).
With the cat out of the bag and the arrival of Ruth (Sabina Franklyn) and Norman, the family’s true colours begin to surface and the weekend descends into dysfunctional chaos with hilarious results.
Table Manners is an ingenious play and Talking Scarlet’s production is lots of fun to watch. It has an incredibly strong cast who work together extremely well and have impeccable comedic timing. Each of the 6 talented actors give the characters strong traits that we recognise and react to immediately.
The set works exceedingly well particularly as it is unfortunate that some of the cast must have their backs to the audience in the dining scenes moreover there is a fantastic use of props particularly by Polly Smith playing the highly-strung Sarah who rearranges everything constantly. It is set in the 1970s which gives opportunity for garish outfits giving Smith a lot of her most hysterical lines.
It is the scenes set at the dining table with all the characters that are the highlights of the production, particularly the one in the second act, with tensions flying sky high together with chairs that don’t match and insufficient food – it is a recipe for great entertainment!
In fact the only disappointment for me was that there isn’t the immediate opportunity to see the other two plays in the trilogy to see how they all knit together. ‘Table Manners’ really leaves you hungry for more. I came out of the Capitol Horsham with a big grin on my face – bravo!
Table Manners is playing at the Capitol Horsham 29th June-1st July as part of it’s nationwide tour. It stars Sabina Franklyn (Ruth) Marcus Hutton (Reg) David Callister (Norman), Jo Castleton (Annie) Ben Roddy (Tom), and Polly Smith (Sarah)