ACT Theatre Reviews 2021-2022

TABLE MANNERS by Alan Ayckbourn Directed by Hazel Phillips Droylsden Little Theatre Droylsden Little Theatre, like many societies, had to cancel its season mid-2020. Following ‘The 39 Steps’ and ‘The Kitchen Sink,’ their next production was set to be Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Table Manners’ – part of his 1973 ‘Norman Conquest’ trilogy. It is only fitting, therefore, that the show to bring them out of the pandemic was to be this one – and one which heads up their 90th season. Set over a single weekend, Annie’s brother-in-law, Norman, frustrated by a wife with “no love or feeling” for him, has persuaded Annie to go away with him secretly for a weekend in East Grinstead. Their plans are ruined by the arrival of Annie’s brother, Reg, and his prudish wife, Sarah, who, when she finds out about the “dirty weekend,” calls Norman’s wife, Ruth, to come and put a stop to her husband’s philandering. The situation is made even more complicated and hilarious by the presence of Annie’s slow-witted friend and suitor, Tom. Stella Hutchinson, a D.L.T. favourite, played Sarah with the right amount of haughtiness and snootiness needed to cause disdain. With sharply cutting acidity and snappy comic punchlines, Stella gave a first-rate performance as the stressed wife with ideas of grandeur – and hopes of a weekend away. Chris Sturmey played her hen-pecked husband Reg with the right amount of bubbling anger for the situation he found himself and offered some great comic moments – especially seated around the dinner table and when his anger bubbled over. Amy Evans played Annie, arguably the heroine of the piece, with the right amount of dowdiness and indecision of a girl caught in the middle of an unexpected love triangle. Initially, the visual age difference between the siblings was jarring but by Act 2 I had settled into the performances. Matt Berry played one of her love interests – country yokel vet, Tom, well. Again, some nice business throughout the play, especially with his confusion of feelings and also little bits of business with props – such as the knife to check his teeth were clean. Jayne Skudder appeared as Norman’s scorned wife, Ruth. With some good angry moments around the dinner table, there were however some unusual choices in direction as to the character’s visual impairment – which were not effectively blocked at all. In Act 1, Scene 2, the character struggled to see items on the breakfast table but could easily work her way to her seat but by Act 2, without her glasses (a scripted point), she could navigate with ease around – and off stage through patio doors, and find her utensils unaided on the dinner table. Tristran Hall played the seedy love-rat, Norman, arrogantly and with humour. An effective and frantic performance – I’m not sure how either Sarah or Annie could fall for his constant interruptions, arrogance, and seediness! There were some times when use of comedy vocal