Table Manners At The Little Theatre, Leicester


Reviewed by Katy Nettleton

Set against the backdrop of a typical 1970s dining room, Table Manners at The Little Theatre, Leicester, running from 10th to 15th June 2024, offers a comedic exploration of family dynamics, fraught relationships, and the hilarity that ensues when these elements collide. This production, part of Alan Ayckbourn’s renowned trilogy “The Norman Conquests”, presents a refreshingly nostalgic dive into the complexities of a family weekend gone awry.

The plot revolves around Norman, an unlikely “Romeo”, who, under the guise of a business trip, plans a secret rendezvous with his sister-in-law Annie. Their plans are quickly thwarted by the unexpected arrival of Annie’s brother Reg and his “prim” wife Sarah. The ensuing chaos intensifies with the arrival of Norman’s career-obsessed wife Ruth and Annie’s well-meaning but dull suitor Tom. The combination of excessive alcohol, simmering sexual tension, and minimal food creates the perfect storm for a weekend brimming with misunderstandings and comic disasters.

Photo Credit: Mary Jayne Harding Scott

The staging of Table Manners is a triumph, expertly crafted to immerse the audience in the family’s dining room. The intimate setting of The Little Theatre makes viewers feel like unseen guests at the table. The clever design even gives the illusion of an outside garden, enhancing the authenticity of the setting.

Hollie Matusiewicz’s portrayal of Annie stood out with her convincing display of innocence and longing for affection. As the sister who bears the brunt of caring for their elderly mother and managing daily activities, Annie’s craving for a weekend off her duties was palpable.

Photo Credit: Mary Jayne Harding Scott

Allan Smith as Norman was delightful, capturing the character’s roguish charm with ease. Emma Bamford, playing Sarah, embodied the traditional homemaker role with a touch of humour, though her interactions with Norman occasionally felt forced. Freddie Dobrijevic’s portrayal of Reg was a highlight, despite his somewhat exaggerated hairstyle, bringing a comedic touch reminiscent of “Fawlty Towers” to the performance.

The 70s-themed costumes were a visual treat, with Tom’s brown jacket and Norman’s patterned jumper being particularly memorable. These outfits added a layer of authenticity, anchoring the play firmly in its time period. However, the play’s reliance on stereotypes, while reflective of its era, may not resonate well with all. Reg’s misogynistic humour, though occasionally amusing, felt outdated, and the depiction of Sarah’s “nervous troubles” bordered on uncomfortable.

Photo Credit: Mary Jayne Harding Scott

Despite these drawbacks, the play delivered numerous laughs, with Reg’s quip about Annie’s salad being a standout moment (Lettuce being a caterpillar hunt!). The exploration of topical issues such as mental wellbeing and societal expectations for women to have children added depth to the comedy, offering moments of reflection amid the humour.

Table Manners at The Little Theatre provides a light-hearted evening of entertainment, punctuated by moments of genuine hilarity and clever staging. The overall experience is enjoyable, evoking the chaotic charm of “Fawlty Towers” with a solemn undertone. For those seeking a nostalgic trip to the 70s filled with laughter and family drama, this production is worth a visit.

In summary, Table Manners is a charming engaging play, offering a delightful escape into the eccentricities of family life. The performances, particularly by Allan Smith and Freddie Dobrijevic, shine through, making for an amusing and memorable evening at the theatre.

Overall, this is a 4 out of 5, but a really enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Rating: 4/5

Tickets are available from: https://thelittletheatre.co.uk/whats-on/table-manners/, or Please call Box Office to book 0116 255 1302.  Prices £16.50 and £17.50 plus £15 for Concessions   10th to 15th June 2024


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