England’s famous seducer of other men’s wives lays siege to his sister-in-law in the first “battle” of Ayckbourn’s celebrated trilogy The Norman Conquests. In Table Manners, the action occurs in the dining room of Mother’s house, where a conventional middle-class family is attempting to have a pleasant country weekend. But they are no match for Norman, the bane of the family, who horrifies everyone by doing exactly as he likes.
An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Rosalind Ayres as Sarah, Kenneth Danziger as Reg, Martin Jarvis as Norman, Jane Leeves as Annie, Christopher Neame as Tom, and Carolyn Seymour as Ruth.
If Oscar Wilde had gone on to write in the 1970s, his dialogue might have sounded a lot like Sir Alan Ayckbourn's, with a similar focus on sexual mores and social satire as a way to take a peek into the human heart. In this truly fine ensemble performance the action begins in a dining room with three couples during a family retreat. The incomparable Martin Jarvis (who has an MBE to his name) plays Norman, the husband of one sister and a potential seducer of her sister and of her sister-in-law. With wit and a finely honed sense of vulnerability, the equally incomparable Rosalind Ayres (who is married to Jarvis in real life) plays Sarah, the focus of so much of Norman's attention.
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Outstanding cast, highly mediocre play. Definitely won't be listening to the rest of the series.
- Persephone Magdalene