Play Reading in English – 'Table Manners' by Alan Ayckbourn, from ‘The Norman Conquests’ trilogy


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 18-01-2016 7:15 PM - 2 h


Free Admission


This month’s play-reading is Alan Ayckbourn’s farcical domestic comedy, Table Manners taken from the trilogy, The Norman Conquests.  The latter is a trilogy of comic plays written in 1973 by Alan Ayckbourn, and the small scale of the drama is typical of Ayckbourn.

There are only six characters, namely Norman, his wife Ruth, her brother Reg and his wife Sarah, Ruth's sister Annie, and Tom, Annie's next-door-neighbour.  The plays are at times wildly comic, and at times poignant, in their portrayals of the relationships among the six characters.  Each of the plays depicts the same six characters over the same weekend in a different part of a house.  Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden in the garden.  Each play is self-contained, and they may be watched in any order.  Some of the scenes overlap, and on several occasions a character's exit from one play corresponds with an entrance in another. 

The story centers on an extended family of two sisters and an older brother and their mates. Annie, the youngest of the three, still lives at home tending to an elderly, bedridden mother we never see.  The action begins when Sarah and Reg (Annie's older brother) arrive to give Annie the chance to escape for the weekend for a long-needed rest.  Fireworks begin almost immediately when Annie tells Sarah she is going away with her sister's husband, Norman.  That pretty much sets the tone for the evening: an extended family whose members simultaneously despise each other and can't get enough of each other.  The central figure is Norman, who needs desperately to be needed - by anyone.  It's almost hard to blame him, too, once you meet his wife, Ruth, a career-obsessed woman with little apparent need for Norman. 

There was a very successful revival of the trilogy at London's Old Vic Theatre in 2008 followed by a Broadway production in 2009.  We will lead the first play and if participants want to read more in the February play-reading options will be discussed including reading a selection of scenes from the other two plays, or alternatively one of the other two.  For those interested in the play theme and wishing to do some advance preparation, the television adaptation of the play from 1977 can be seen on the YouTube link on the left.


Play reading will be conducted in English.

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