And so, Liverpool conquered Norman. The Alan Aykbourn trilogy that has consumed the Playhouse for the last month gave its final performance last night, with Table Manners. Not just the end of quite an epic run of comedy but the end of the season too, it was sad to see everyone go.
Those interested in catching the three plays that make up the Norman Conquests could have done so individually or on a trilogy day, when the company would perform them all back to back in different permutations.
Taking place over a weekend during an awkward family reunion, the shows could be seen in any order –although now after seeing all three, it’s Round and Round the Garden that brings the closure the audience seeks.
Living Together takes place in the sitting room, leaving Table Manners to play out in the dining room of the delightful revolving stage, full of authentic 1970s props from the cereal boxes to placemats. Indeed Table Manners more than any of the others seemed to rely on the small things, with many tiny details all adding up to create the Norman universe.
The dining room is where we see tightly-wound Sarah (Sarah Tansey) finally lose all patience with easy-going husband Reg (Oliver Birch), and where single girl Annie (Laura Howard) and neighbour Tom (Tom Davey) get to dissect their possibly blossoming relationship – at least as much as Tom, a master of the literal, can comprehend.
Norman (Philip Cumbus) continues to cause havoc in his inimitable style, setting about seducing Sarah on the sly; while his put-upon wife Ruth (Emily Pithon) is unpleasant to all around, and certainly not as nuanced as in previous plays.
Table Manners combines the madcap of Round and Round the Garden with the dramatics of Living Together and is all the better for it. The breakfast scene, where Norman goes out of his way to annoy the three characters refusing to speak to him, is a joy, as is the build up to the family’s final, miserable supper.
With great performances from Tansey and Howard, this play looked at the frustrations and minutiae of family life and captured it well, while never compromising on laugh-out-loud moments.
Picture by Jonathan Keenan