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Theater: 'Good Manners'

Theater: 'Good Manners'

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.

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