The Norman Conquests

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Table Manners - Living Together - Round and Round the Garden

Previewed 11 September 2008, Opened 6 October 2008, Closed 20 December 2008 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comic masterpieces, The Norman Conquests in London for the first time in 34 years. Matthew Warchus directs all three plays - Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden.

The interconnecting triptych of plays, Round and Round the Garden, Table Manners and Living Together follow the same six characters, Norman, his in-laws and the local vet over a summer weekend, in an English Country house. Believing it his mission in life to make women happy by showering them with love, Norman makes the most of every opportunity to seduce his sister-in-law, Annie, charms his brother-in-law's wife, Sarah and woo his wife Ruth during this disastrous weekend of squabbling, eating, drinking and fondling.

Comprising of three separate plays - Living Together, Table Manners and Round and Round the Garden - they are ingeniously structured to allow each of the three plays to be enjoyed independently or as a trilogy in any combination. Together they create a fascinating, hilarious puzzle, which weaves a masterful web of interconnecting secrets and desires. With his inimitable wit and compassion, Alan Ayckbourn reveals the frustration and disappointments which bubble beneath the surface of a family's relationships and brings to light their thoughts on sex, marriage, love and loneliness.

The cast for The Norman Conquests in London features Stephen Mangan as 'Norman', Jessica Hynes as 'Annie', Amelia Bullmore as 'Ruth' with Ben Miles as 'Tom', Paul Ritter as 'Reg' and Amanda Root as 'Sarah'. It is directed by Matthew Warchus with designs by Rob Howell, lighting by David Howe, music by Gary Yershon and sound by Simon Baker. Especially for this production The Old Vic Theatre's auditorium will be transformed into 'The CQS Space' to recreate the intimate 'theatre-in-the-round' experience that the plays were originally written for.

Alan Ayckbourn's theatre credits include Relatively Speaking, A Chorus of Disapproval, How The Other Half Loves, Communicating Doors, Woman in Mind, Absurd Person Singular, Absent Friends and Bedroom Farce.

"Alan Ayckbourn's 1973 trilogy depicts a disastrous set of marital and emotional tangles between six adults over one weekend in Sussex. Each play is discrete but, in revealing events happening 'off-stage' in each of the others, they expose layers of misunderstanding and deceit... Like the best farces, The Norman Conquests is anchored in cruelty. Much of the comedy stems from hatred - be it between husbands and wives, via jealous women or from individuals suffocated by routine - and Matthew Warchus's in-the-round production balances the laughter and despair perfectly. Stephen Mangan's bear-like Norman is a pivotal force - an incorrigible romantic and serial adulterer capable of igniting and crushing dreams in an instant." The London Metro

"In Matthew Warchus's well-performed production of Alan Ayckbourn's 1974 trilogy The Norman Conquests, it's not only the appalling behaviour that makes you wince and weep, but also designer Rob Howell's authentic recreation of the Seventies, the decade taste forgot: belted safari jackets, fat sideburns, fluffy rugs, prissy dresses, puffed sleeves, limp lettuce salads and home-made wine... Each of the ingeniously plotted plays is set at the same time over a weekend but in a different place - the dining room, sitting room and garden - in the house where Annie, Reg and Ruth grew up and where unmarried Annie cares for their once sexually voracious but now invalid mother who bullies them from her bedroom... The catalyst for most of the mirth and misery is Norman, an irredeemable philanderer so enchanted with himself that he imagines everyone else must be, too. Stephen Mangan's despicable but irresistible Norman resembles an Old English Sheepdog who nuzzles the women until they submit. Neither the plays - nor the production run out of steam. Table Manners is a satisfying meal in itself, but seeing all three an infinitely richer feast. Treat yourself." The Mail on Sunday

"Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy of plays hasn't been seen in London since 1974. To do it justice, the Old Vic in Waterloo has been converted into an in-the-round theatre, recreating the plays' original staging. The make-over is a triumph... You can see the three plays independently but the work basically amounts to a single seven-hour masterpiece of interlocking construction, engineered with a Brunel-like genius... There are plenty of laughs here, but some of them never quite leave your throat as you realise the awful mutual cruelty these characters are capable of... Matthew Warchus once again proves that he is the finest director of comedy we've got." The Sunday Telegraph

"This bold, brilliant revival at the Old Vic is a huge waving peacock feather in the cap of its director, Matthew Warchus, as well as the artistic director, Kevin Spacey. Written in 1973, the plays treat middle-class marriage, adultery and frustration on an epic scale, with Ayckbourn's hypersensitive comic antennae perfectly balanced by compassion... There's further pleasure to be had from Ayckbourn's characteristic playing with time and structure, for the action of the three plays in fact takes place simultaneously, in three places. This adds ingenious new layers of laughter and poignancy to the immaculate and generous ensemble acting... Husbands and wives stand on opposite sides of a vast chasm, shouting across to each other. Only the occasional word is understood; the rest are carried away on the wind. Yet love still makes it across. Sometimes." The Sunday Times

The Norman Conquests in London at the Old Vic Theatre - Table Manners previewed from 11 September 2008, Living Together previewed from 15 September 2008, Round and Round the Garden previewed from 18 September 2008, opened on 6 October 2008 and closed 20 December 2008.