The Phnom Penh Players, an enthusiastic non-profit theatrical group, last month
gave residents a third opportunity to see English theater.
After Tom Stoppard's take-off of a detective play and two short pieces by Noel
Coward, Oct. 23 saw them progress to Alan Ayckbourn's "Table Manners" staged
at the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel and directed by Bill Lobban, his last production.
Ayckbourn, well-known in Scarborough, England, where his own company has first crack
at all his plays, is a prolific observer of the English middle class scene. Perpetually
at odds with most romantic literature, "Table Manners", the first of "The
Norman Conquest" trilogy, is typical of his work. Portraying middle class family
attitudes, marriages that have lost their savor, all against the backdrop of sexual
warfare in all its guises.
The plot is simple yet multi-layered. Annie (Kathy Attfield) an unmarried daughter
who has let herself go to seed looking after an invalid mother, is finally going
off on a dirty week-end with lusty Norman (Peter Griffith), the husband of her near-sighted
sister Ruth (Vicki Rogers). Sarah (Hanne Moll Christensen), a neurotically verbose
house wife with two children comes down to hold the fort with Reg (Nick Hughes),
with whom she has a cat-and-dog relationship. Tom (Craig Martin) shy and more at
home with animals, is a long-time ineffectual suitor of Annie.
Sarah finds out, tries to enlist the rest of the family to blackball Norman while
attempting ineffectively to matchmake Tom and Annie. In the end Annie, for whom it
is all too much, succumbs into Norman's arms ready for the shot of sexual joy he
will offer any willing woman.
The play, relatively static, depends for its effect on fast-paced dialogue. The actors,
who well conveyed their persona, meet the challenge. Sarah, despite a few lapses
with her lines, maintained the required degree of nervous energy throughout.
Ruth conveys a well-judged weariness with her husband, the child she never had. Tom's
exasperating clumsy ineptness comes across well. Reg's relish with his cutting dialogue
is obvious. The main protagonists, unkempt, frustrated Annie and Norman, always ready
to dispense happiness if a one-night-stand offers, hold the play together.
The group are to be congratulated although acoustical problems and a lack of voice
projection among some of the cast made it difficult for those at the back to hear
well. The two dinner evenings, the first banquets put on at the hotel by Roger Mitchell,
were a triumph of organization.