Table Manners

By Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Produced by the Muizenberg Dramatic Society.

Directed by Sue Wilkes

At the Masque Theatre until Saturday
June 10.

Reviewer: Coleen van Staden

I am a fan of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s work because his comedy is gentle, at times screamingly funny and always sympathetic to our human foibles.

He is often compared to the American playwright, Neil Simon – but where Simon’s work has a “close to home” feel, Ayckbourn’s themes are more universal while keeping the subtle and witty comedy that is so typically British.

The Norman Conquests, a trilogy of three plays, and popular with both professional and amateur groups, are set in the same house with the same characters, but are performed as stand-alone theatre pieces.

As the writer in residence and artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in the70s, Ayckbourn’s plays were performed in the round and written for small casts to keep the costs down. This is the beauty of his work – a small cast means that there is no room for superfluous characters and you can always be assured that they will be finely-drawn and well-rounded.

I attended the opening night and was glad to see a group of 20-somethings relishing what they were seeing on stage, proving that an Ayckbourn written in 1973 is still relevant and funny.

There were some lovely chuckle moments and great one-liners.

The story takes place in the dining room of Annie’s house.

Her guests are her sister, Ruth, and her husband Norman, as well as Sarah and Reg, another married couple, and Tom, Annie’s neighbour and sometime suitor. At the outset, everyone agrees to keep the peace. However, tensions simmer and eventually explode – an area where Ayckbourn is at his best.

It requires from the actors just the right amount of comedy play, timing and restraint and some fared better than others. The ensemble work was very good however, the characters well developed by the cast members and director and the pace in the first half particularly good. They had the audience with them from the get-go.

But there were missed opportunities in the individual performances in terms of delivery and scene development that prevented an evening of good entertainment from being one of excellence.

Top marks to Eve Carr as Annie who gave a performance that suited Ayckbourn’s style perfectly.

Tamika Sewnarain’s performance as Sarah was delicious and Nadine Bentley played Ruth convincingly and with great presence.

Philippe Pringiers had moments as the philanderer, Norman with some hilarious deadpan one-liners, Sebastian Lanser was an endearing Tom and Thomas Bowman as Reg gave an energetic and committed performance.

I found the staging a little predictable and not always in support of the dialogue or story development – this goes back to an “in the round” approach by Ayckbourn.

Congratulations to set designer, Alastair Duff, and his construction crew.

The colour tones, the décor and furniture were excellent – one of the best sets seen in a while.

For a good chuckle and dose of Ayckbourn charm, do go and see the show.

Tickets are R80 each. To book call 021 788 1898 or send an email to