TABLE MANNERS

BY ALAN AYCKBOURN

SYNOPSIS

Table Manners shows the events at a country house over one weekend. The house belongs to an unseen but tyrannical invalid woman whose unattached daughter, Annie, cares for her. On the Saturday evening when the play starts, Annie's brother Reg and his wife Sarah have just arrived to take over nursing duties so that Annie can go away for the weekend. Reg, one of a number of Ayckbourn men who can never quite remember the names of his own children, probably hasn't thought about it at all, but Sarah assumes this has been arranged with Tom, the local vet, who has been hanging around Annie as fixedly as her old jumper but failing actually to court her.

In fact, the weekend, in the less than raffishly exciting hideaway of a Sussex country town (East Grinstead), has been arranged with Norman, an assistant librarian ‘with a rather aimless sort of beard', who is prepared to court any body. Sarah - bossy, impatient, interfering but ultimately very vulnerable - soon talks Annie out of that but isn't persuasive enough to talk Tom into it. Norman, who has turned up expecting to take Annie away under the pretence of going to a librarians' conference, is therefore at a loose end about the house and free to wreak havoc, which he does. Interestingly, though, his ‘crimes' are all things the others to some extent encourage or need. Reg enjoys Norman's jokes. Tom thinks he is wise in the ways of the world and gives good advice. Annie wants to be swept off her feet by someone and Sarah is badly in need of attention and understanding of some kind.

Finally Ruth, Norman's wife (and sister to Annie and Reg) joins the party unexpectedly. She is a high-powered but seriously short-sighted executive who duly catches him with two women apparently fighting over him but is promptly talked into joining him on a much-abused fake fur rug for the night.

CASTING CALL

Table manners is a small play in two acts using only six characters. All described below. This farcical comedy is one of three plays that all detail the events of the same weekend, in a country house, with each production set in different spaces around the house.  
 
The Norman Conquests, as they are known collectively, are one of Alan Ayckbourn's most critically acclaimed works and it is our pleasure to put one of them on.  

All parts required are written in the poster on the left and it also includes the best ways to make contact with me. The ages are purely suggestions for characters so please do still contact me if you are interested in a role. 

Rehearsals for this production are due to start at the end of March 2019, dates and times are yet to be confirmed, but a Tuesday evening is the most likely of options. If this day is not preferable to you, please do still express your interest and let me know of this, as this could be worked around.  
 
the production will run from Friday the 28th - Sunday the 30th of June, with a minimum of 3 performances, leading to potentially 5 dependant on sales and desire within the community.  
 
Haddenham Players is a small but enthusiastic group run by local people and we pride ourselves on creating the best drama we can for each and every production we hold. if you feel like you would like to join this production then please do get in contact with myself and we can arrange a way forward.  

I hope to hear from you soon, 
 
James Kershaw 
Haddenham Players Secretary and Director of Table Manners 

CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS

TAKEN FROM ALANAYCKBOURN.NET
Annie
Not so much a meek personality as what one might term an 'anything-for-a-quiet-life' personality. Her anxiety to see least trouble often leads her to be taken advantage of by the others. 'Easier', she feels, 'To do something yourself than go through all the arguments and bickering required to persuade someone else to do it.' This attitude has led her to accept far too great a share of the family responsibilities, especially with regard to her mother. Ironically, she already sees herself as her own worst enemy and is well aware of what she is doing. Her low self esteem is something that instantly attracts Norman. But Annie is tougher than she looks. There is another dormant, tougher side to her altogether.

Sarah 
I suspect a psychiatrist would find Sarah a deeply unhappy woman. She is certainly shrouded in deep guilt about practically everything. This results in her assuming responsibility for the world and his mother. She foresees disasters that may never happen, finds a crisis (and even creates one) where there was none previously and invariably dramatises the tiniest incident. Maybe it is her instinctive sense of order that causes this. Her desire to see everything in its place and staying there. She must have been the saddest little girl. For ever scrubbing and polishing her dolls, scolding and reproaching them for failing to sit up straight or for falling off their chairs. All her tea parties must have ended in tears of frustration. Despite her apparent care for the world, she is extraordinarily self centred, somewhat vain, a bully, sexually repressed and not, alas, very bright.

Ruth
Although she'd never admit it, her attitude is not a million miles away from Annie's. Ruth has simply chosen a different path to achieve the same result. In her case, a couldn't care less, seemingly cool manner which she affects in order to keep the world at bay. It is no accident that she chooses to view the world out of focus. That way she hopes to keep it from impinging on her. Yet there is another side to Ruth. She is actually a passionate woman and a very intelligent one - by far the brightest of them all. This has led her away from the safe relationships her head tells her would make sense towards the unconventional, the unstable - hers and Norman's. Although the two are chalk and cheese, of course they are opposites irresistibly attracted.

Reg
A bit of a contradiction is Reg. On the surface a bit of a man's man, gregarious, jokey, a mite vulgar, he's really just a little boy who's never really grown up. His and Sarah's relationship is far more mother and third child than husband and wife. And quite a loner. He's very happy with his own company and again is someone who's happy to settle for a quiet life. He's very fond of Annie but not it seems fond enough to do anything much about helping her. Once again his and Sarah's is a marriage which, whilst seemingly filled with turmoil, is probably one that suits them both. Reg's description of himself in Living Together is probably as accurate as anything. In between bouts of furious activity (he responds well to physical or practical emergencies) he is happy to sit for days staring at the wall.

Tom 
Not quite as slow witted as he seems, Tom's real problem is his inability to tune in or focus properly on others. He's either a beat behind (more usual) or occasionally even a beat ahead. Or somewhere else altogether. People, so far as Tom is concerned, are a total mystery, an unreadable book. Their behaviour is totally inexplicable. Rages, depressions, bouts of tears, bursts of unexplained laughter. It's not that he doesn't listen. Often he listens too hard. To no avail. The harder he listens the more he tries to please them, the greater they rant and rage. But you should see him with an injured horse. An almost perfect communion between man and beast. If this makes him seem rather sweet and charming, yes, he is. He's also essentially as selfish and self-interested as the day is long.

Norman 
The wild card in the pack. Norman's strength, though even he fails to realise it some of the time, is that he's totally transparent. He makes no secret of his needs and desires. He's discovered the greatest male sexual secret, namely that the quickest way to a woman's heart (and body) is to ask her for it. And to keep on asking her till she says yes. His 'yes' rate is extraordinarily high for someone with apparently such an unappetising profile and slightly dubious personal habits. How does he do it? other better groomed men ask in bewilderment. But then Norman is unafraid and rarely offended by a refusal. Indeed, he could probably have been the Don Juan he professes to want to be. But the thrill of the chase is all for Norman. Invariably, at the kill, he will back off or lose interest. Enough for him to know that the unattainable was within his grasp rather than spoil the romantic dream by taking it. It is this romance, this un-threatening harmlessness, this genuine love of women, all women, the ability to see them, every one, as charmed and beautiful beings, that attracts them to him. They know he manipulates, they are well aware he often schemes and lies, but when the end product of these machinations is a desire for them, themselves - what the hell. How often in life do you get the chance to be the irresistible object of someone's desire? It's good to have been there once, even with Norman. Needless to say, the biggest single driving force in Norman's life is his need to be liked, if not loved, by everyone.​​​