When Alan Ayckbourn wrote his trilogy – The Norman Conquests – in the early 1970s it is said he was inspired by The Archers and was aiming to woo his audience away from their TV screens and in particular Coronation Street by offering up his own version of a soap.
The result was three stand-alone plays which take place during the same July weekend in different parts of a family home, Table Manners (the dining room) Living Together (the living room) and Round and Round The Garden (you’ve guessed it).
Occasionally a brave team will stage all three but more often it is one of the trio being performed. I’ve seen Table Manners a few times and last night I was treated to my first Living Together courtesy of the Quarndon Amateur Dramatic Society. And what a treat it was.
Director Peter Konowalik had cast the perfect sextet to play the three dysfunctional couples gathered together at the home of their elderly mother. Ayckbourn himself would have been delighted with the way each had perfected his characters.
Alex Wrampling played the lonely, but ultimately feisty Annie, who has accepted far too great a share of the family responsibilities for her mother. Richard Whitehorn played her brother Reg, who is really just a little boy who has never grown up and is happy to be told what to do by his self-centred, deeply unhappy wife Sarah played by Sonia Hardy.
The third sibling, Ruth, was played by Clare Snape and it is her husband Norman, played by Rick Law, who is the wild card in the pack. His driving force is to be liked by everyone but even though he doesn’t realise it himself he is totally transparent to the others.
Last, but not least, we have Tom, played by Edward Pickering-Symes, the seemingly sweet, but dithering vet, who is dating Annie.
Reg and Sarah have just arrived to look after mother so Annie can go on a weekend break to East Grinstead, not with Tom, but with Norman. However Sarah has wormed the truth out of Annie and she cancels the trip. Now Ruth also knows what was going on, so it is no wonder that Norman is knocking back the homemade dandelion wine. Let’s just say the weekend doesn’t go as planned.
Rick Law was fantastic as the raffish Norman. His drunken singing was especially hilarious. Richard Whitehorn was equally as impressive as Reg. His plaintive cry of ‘will someone just play with me please’ as he looked forlornly at his homemade board game summed up his character perfectly.
I don’t know whether QUADs have performed either of the other two plays in the past, but it would be great if this team could pull off the trilogy. I for one would love to see them in Round and Round the Garden next year.
The play is being performed again tonight at Quarndon Village Hall at 7.45pm. The internet tells me there are still 19 tickets available. Go to http://www.quarndonquads.co.uk to book.
The rest of the production team were Phil Read, Rob Snell, Glyn Syson, Debs Simpson, Sue Harrison, Michelle Andrew, Keith Parker, Mark Zawada, Eve and Aid Sacker, Sheila Wood and Wayne Parkin.