by Terence Rattigan.
Salisbury Playhouse Malthouse Lane SP2 7RA To 8 November 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.15pm.
Audio-described 1 Nov 2.15pm & 7.30pm.
BSL Signed 5 Nov.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 01722 320333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 October.
Several strong performances replenish Rattigan’s Separate Tables.
Reconfiguration of the Playhouse auditorium adds eloquence to Tom Rogers’ set for Salisbury’s revival of Terence Rattigan’s 1954 evening of what are, in effect, two compressed three act plays. Laid out amidst the audience are a set of tables constituting the dining-room of Bournemouth’s (fictional) Beauregard Hotel – a respectable place for those whose budget excludes them from places where service and food are of higher quality.
Without Miss Cooper as its manager, whose understanding and tolerance of others’ lives lived, based on her own sadness, Carol Starks makes clear, the genteel would soon be overtaken by the shabby. And the view of the empty dining-room sums-up the lifestyle of Rattigan’s characters in the separate tables with lonely chairs spread across much of the stage.
The Beauregard’s residents would enjoy a Rattigan play, so long as they failed to recognise themselves on stage. Salisbury’s Artistic Director Gareth Machin follows the ‘American’ version, which means the second play Table Number Seven reveals its offending character, with his faked military history, to have importuned young men on the promenade, rather than as discreetly stated at first, young women.
This makes the nervous young Sybil Railton-Bell’s horror more general than fearful of personal danger on the walks they have taken. For, as retired schoolteacher Fowler suggests, homosexuality was seen as stalking the nation like a plague in the play’s post-war era.
Rattigan doesn’t make things too easy. Prejudiced and dominating as she is, Mrs Railton-Bell gathers most people on her side against the offender, including the young doctor’s educated wife. In the second play, set two years after the first act, The Table by the Window, Jean moves from lover to mother with a shift suggesting, in Eleanor Wyld’s unrelenting sternness, Rattigan recalled Anton Chekhov’s Natasha in Three Sisters.
Jane How, respectable, stuffed-up with clothing and make-up that scream ‘standards’, duly shows the appalling Mrs Railton-Bell doing what she thinks is right as she destroys others’ lives.
Many performances do well by their characters, though Kirsty Besterman and Robert Perkins both seem happier with their new characters after the interval, in this solidly-built revival.
Mrs Shankland/Miss Railton-Bell: Kirsty Besterman.
Charles Stratton: Mawgan Gyles.
Mrs Railton-Bell: Jane How.
Miss Meacham: Petra Markham.
Doreen: Emma Noakes.
Lady Matheson: Audrey Palmer.
Mr Malcolm/Major Pollock: Robert Perkins.
Mr Fowler: Graham Seed.
Miss Cooper: Carol Starks.
Mabel: Emily Wachter.
Jean: Eleanor Wyld.
Director: Gareth Machin.
Designer: Tom Rogers.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: John Leonard.
Voice/Dialect coach: Kay Welch.
Fight director: Paul Benzing.