The Norman Conquests

Three interconnecting plays by Alan Ayckbourn. 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, to charm his brother-in-law's wife, Sarah, and to woo his wife Ruth, during a disastrous weekend of squabbling, eating, drinking and fondling.

Comprising of three separate plays - Living Together (set in the sitting/living room), Table Manners (set in the dining room), and Round and Round the Garden (set in the garden/yard) - which 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.

1974: West End London Premiere with Tom Courtenay/Ronald Pickup

2008: 1st West End London Revival with Stephen Mangan

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, Damsels in Distress Trilogy: RolePlay, FlatSpin, and GamePlan, Bedroom Farce, and Things We Do for Love. Alan Ayckbourn also provided lyrics to the Andrew Lloyd Webber's P G Wodehouse musical By Jeeves, and Roger Glossop's children's show of Beatrix Potter's Where is Peter Rabbit?


1974: West End London Premiere with Tom Courtenay/Ronald Pickup

The three plays where performed together in repertory:

Table Manners
Previewed 8 May 1974, Opened 9 May 1974, Closed 29 June 1974 at the Greenwich Theatre
Transferred 1 August 1974, Closed 28 November 1975 at the Globe Theatre
Transferred 1 December 1975, Closed 12 March 1976 at the Apollo Theatre

Living Together
Previewed 20 May 1974, Opened 21 May 1974, Closed 29 June 1974 at the Greenwich Theatre
Transferred 5 August 1974, Closed 29 November 1975 at the Globe Theatre
Transferred 2 December 1975, Closed 13 March 1976 at the Apollo Theatre

Round And Round The Garden
Previewed 5 June 1974, Opened 6 June 1974, Closed 29 June 1974 at the Greenwich Theatre
Transferred 8 August 1974, Closed 29 November 1975 at the Globe Theatre
Transferred 3 December 1975, Closed 13 March 1976 at the Apollo Theatre

At London's Greenwich Theatre there where seven-performances-a-week: Monday to Saturday evenings, with an afternoon matinee on Saturdays. The exception was on Saturday 29 June 1974 when all three plays where performed on the same day, morning, afternoon, and evening.

At the West End's Globe and Apollo Theatres there where eight-performances-a-week: Monday to Saturday evenings, with an afternoon matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The cast at London's Greenwich Theatre and the West End's Globe Theatre (from Wednesday 8 May 1974 to Saturday 31 May 1975) featured Tom Courtenay as 'Norman', Penelope Wilton as 'Ruth', Mark Kingston as 'Reg', Penelope Keith as 'Sarah', Felicity Kendal as 'Annie', and Michael Gambon as 'Tom'.

The cast at the West End's Globe and Apollo Theatre (from Monday 2 June 1975 to Saturday 13 March 1976) featured Ronald Pickup as 'Norman', Julia McKenzie as 'Ruth', Ivor Danvers as 'Reg', Sheila Ballantine as 'Sarah', Brigit Forsyth as 'Annie', and Julian Holloway as 'Tom'.

Directed by Eric Thompson, with designs by Alan Pickford, and lighting by Nick Chelton.


2008: 1st West End London Revival with Stephen Mangan

The three plays where performed together in repertory:

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

Living Together
Previewed 15 September 2008, Opened 6 October 2008, Closed 20 December 2008 at the Old Vic Theatre

Round and Round the Garden
Previewed 18 September 2008, Opened 6 October 2008, Closed 20 December 2008 at the Old Vic Theatre

A major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comic masterpieces, The Norman Conquests in London for the first time in 34 years

For this revival the Old Vic Theatre was transformed into 'The CQS Space' to recreate the intimate 'theatre-in-the-round' experience that the plays were originally written for.

This production played eight-performances-a-week: Monday to Saturday evenings, with afternoon matinees on Wednesday and Saturday, with the first afternoon matinee on Wednesday 1 October 2008. All three plays where performed on 'Trilogy Days' (at 11.00am, 3.00pm and 7.30pm) on Monday 6 October, and Saturdays 18 October, 1, 15, 22 November, 6, 13 and 20 December 2008. There where no performances on Mondays 13, 27 October, 10, 17 November, 1, 8 and 15 December 2008.

The cast featured Stephen Mangan as 'Norman', Amelia Bullmore as 'Ruth', Paul Ritter as 'Reg', Amanda Root as 'Sarah', Jessica Hynes as 'Annie', and Ben Miles as 'Tom'.

Directed by Matthew Warchus, with designs by Rob Howell, lighting by David Howe, music by Gary Yershon, and sound by Simon Baker.

Amelia Bullmore's London theatre credits include 'Leanne'/'Trish' in Max Stafford-Clark's production of Sue Townsend's The Queen and I at the Royal Court Theatre in 1994; and 'Liz' in Di Trevis' revival of John Osborne's Inadmissible Evidence at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 1993.

Amanda Root's London theatre credits include 'Cressida' in Sam Mendes' revival of William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida at the Barbican Pit Theatre in 1991; 'Nina' in Terry Hands' revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull at the Barbican Theatre in 1991; and 'Lady Macbeth' in Adrian Noble's revival of William Shakespeare's Macbeth at the Barbican Theatre in 1989.

"The linked trio of plays, best seen in one day but enjoyable individually, centre on self-avowed love machine Norman. Played to the hilt for laughs by a bearded Stephen Mangan... In Table Manners, the first play (actually, the funniest)... Amanda Root is excellent as Sarah and Paul Ritter, resplendent in a dated safari suit, gives his character a pathetic suburban whine and erupts magnificently at his irritating wife. Jessica Hynes is comically poignant as the dejected Annie... In the second play, Living Together, Ayckbourn has developed the characters even further. Norman reasserts himself and Mangan turns in a compelling display of drunken histrionics in his quest to be wanted. His timing is perfect, particularly when seducing his wife Ruth - a feisty portrayal by Amelia Bullmore - on the rug where he coupled with Annie. In the final play, Round And Round The Garden, there is a bitter-sweet performance by Ben Miles as the dim vet haphazardly courting the confused Annie." The Daily Express

"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

The Norman Conquests in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 11 September 2008, opened on 6 October 2008, and closed 20 December 2008.