Table Manners is the first part of the trilogy and is now on stage in Theatre Upstairs at Reps (Belgravia Shopping Centre, Harare), where Gloria Prentice is undertaking her first directorial role in Zimbabwe for more than seven years. Now based in Australia, she has come home for a break and to showcase her considerable talent and experience with a well-crafted and delightful play.
Table Manners is set in a country home during the course of a summer weekend, with a group of family members attempting, then abandoning, familial pleasantries. At the centre is Norman, a philanderer whose character and exploits cause mayhem, but who nonetheless remains lovable. The other two parts of the trilogy are equally enjoyable and Gloria hints that she may well stage these at some time in the future, depending on response to this first instalment, which works as either part of the trilogy or as a stand-alone production. It’s a play worth leaving home and fireplace for, especially as neighbouring Adrienne’s Restaurant has teamed up with Reps to offer a discounted after-theatre supper.
It’s is great to see Gloria back in action in Harare, which remains home to her and husband John, despite having moved closer to their family some time ago. She will be remembered for many successes, not only at Reps but also in the Mazowe Valley/Concession area, where she managed many a hit in the once-vibrant farming community theatrical scene.
Cast members of Table Manners include some of the best Reps actors: Sue Bolt, John Dennison, Fiona Garrity, Kevin Hanssen, Tim Harrap and Vanessa Vos. All have been on stage in recent years in a range of different productions and it is pleasing to see them positioned together in a battle of wits, energies and understandings.
As one of Britain’s most performed playwrights, Ayckbourn has to date written 75 plays. Almost all received their first performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, with more than 35 of his works being subsequently staged in the West End, at the National Theatre or by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Major successes include Relatively Speaking, How the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, A Chorus of Disapproval, A Small Family Business, Henceforward…, Comic Potential, Things We Do For Love and House & Garden.
In 2009, Matthew Warchus’ hit in-the-round production of The Norman Conquests first seen at the Old Vic transferred to Broadway, earning a Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Christmas 2010 saw the National Theatre’s staging of his 1980 play Season’s Greetings to great acclaim and in January this year a revival of Absent Friends began at the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre. Although he stepped down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2009, a post he held for 37 years, he continues to guest direct there; last year saw Dear Uncle (his adaptation of Uncle Vanya) and Neighbourhood Watch, and he will be directing yet again this summer. His plays have been translated into 35 languages, won numerous awards nationally and internationally, and have been performed worldwide on stage and television. In recent years, he has been inducted into American Theatre’s Hall of Fame, received the 2010 Critics’ Circle Award for Services to the Arts and became the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards. He was knighted in 1997 for services to the theatre.
Table Manners runs until Saturday June 30, with performances each night Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm, and matinées on selected Saturdays at 2.30pm. Advance booking is now open at The Spotlight. Early bookings have been good so it is recommended that people make reservations early to avoid missing out.
Bookings for the Adrienne’s supper can also be made at The Spotlight.