Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

Separate Tables
by Terence Rattigan    directed by Colin Lawrence

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, July 2019

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A review of the production and some unsolicited audience feedback

SEPARATE TABLES  by Terence Rattigan
Presented by Bawds at The ADC Theatre
Reviewed by Margaret Clark
 
Written in the 1950s this play demonstrates the feelings of repression abounding in society before the ‘Swinging 60s’.  Television was still in its infancy and theatre audiences accustomed to lengthy plays.   
 
The melancholic cadences of the introductory music set the atmosphere as the separate tables of the hotel dining room discouraged familiarity and cocooned each individual in a state of loneliness. It wasn’t going to be a barrel of laughs.   
 
The setting was a Bournemouth residential hotel run down to the state of bleak.  A wonder that anyone entered its portals, but those who did received a warm welcome from manageress Miss Cooper (Tracy James) ever ready with a shoulder to cry on, and waitress Mabel (Mandi Cattell) adept at carrying plates up and down steps and an insider knowledge of the menu; plus a nice little cameo from Doreen (Grace Harper) as a new waitress.
 
The residents appearing in both Acts included Lady Matheson (Tricia Peroni) whose tightly drawn bun implied her financial means did not run to a weekly visit to the hairdresser.  Miss Meacham (Judy Curry) whose only interest in life appeared to be racing tips but then in those days, newspapers didn’t cost the earth.  Charles Stratton (Thomas Orton) and Jean Tanner (Mo Soper) a young couple, students in the first act and a married couple later in the play.  Why they returned to the hotel after the arrival of a baby mystifies me. Surely some of the oldies objected to cries in the night.    
 
Other residents included the ‘dragon’ Mrs Railton-Bell (Stephanie Hamer) and her repressed adult daughter, Sybil (Wendy Croft).  Did this type of relationship really last so long?   My present day 16-year-old great-niece can shout louder than her mother. And then we had retired head teacher Mr Fowler (Nick Warburton), ever disappointed by the callousness of youth. I loved his hunched awkward posture.
 
Act 1 introduces us to Mrs Shankland (Catherine Walston) a glamorous lady terrified of her advancing years purposefully visiting the hotel to entice her ex-husband back; for me, the frock wasn’t quite right.  If one wishes to entrap an old flame shouldn't the dress be more revealing?   Ex-husband, failed politician and journalist, Mr Malcolm (Julian Cooper) looked too nice to be a wife beater and at times the scene between them lacked movement.  
 
Act 2, set 18 months after Act 1, introduces us to the galloping Major Pollock (Barry Brown).  Appearing in the town's Court for an unmentionable act, he’s distraught that the other residents will find out and, of course, the dragon does and demands his eviction from the hotel.  At this point Mummy's little girl breaks her bonds and defies her mother- cheers from the audience – resulting in the Major, on whom she has a crush deciding not to leave,  while comfy Miss Cooper agrees.   That evening at dinner, the residents (except for the dragon, of course) greet the Major - not effusively – but, for the audience it’s a hopefully happy ever after ending.   The curtain descended on a long afternoon, but that was the way of things in the 1950s.

The entire cast is to be congratulated on very good performances throughout.  Characters were well defined aided by, for the ladies, dowdy costumes and splendid furs, and, for the gentlemen tweed suits.  However, there was at times a tendency for some actors to present themselves in profile rather than two-thirds on to the audience. 
 
The stage crew were swift and well rehearsed, placing furniture between scenes. In fact, to all backstage congratulations; and congratulations too to Director Colin Lawrence for providing the audience with a good production of a 1950s phenomenon.
 
On leaving the theatre a friend said, “It was worth missing the Ladies Final at Wimbledon on TV.” The ultimate accolade.
 
Some audience feedback ....

"My wife and I came to Separate Tables at the ADC on Saturday. We absolutely loved it. We didn't know the play but the dialogue is terrific of course. But we thought your production was outstanding. The casting was great and the performances were a delight. Everyone from the
leading characters to the waitresses seemed to perform faultlessly and really in the spirit of the writing. I don't want to single out any one performer as they were all believable and some were mesmerising. A pity that the auditorium was only half full - it so deserved a full house."-
SM Cambridge 

"My sister had an absolutely lovely time last night. She started to list who her favourite performances were by - but in the end, she had listed everybody! She didn't have enough good things to say.The audience around her were lovely to talk to and all seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly." - MS Cambridge

"It was a rare treat to see such a thoughtful and moving production (not forgetting the humour too). I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and know that the play will stay in my mind. I’ve always thought Rattigan must present a challenge to directors and actors alike. The BAWDS production surpassed many things I’ve seen at the Arts or West End. It really was superb." - KP Cambridge

"I was speaking to two people in the bar and they loved the show. They were obviously embroiled, as the play sparked quite a long conversation about the social history of those times." - HS Cambridge

"My daughter also enjoyed it very much. She didn't notice how long it was because she was so involved in all the  characterisations! " TJ - Cambridge

"Congratulations to everyone, we loved it." - RW Cambridge

"Just wanted to say how much we enjoyed Separate Tables on Saturday evening. Good to see you doing an interesting play (or pair of plays) like that, and I thought Barry Brown was outstanding in the second one." - SR Cambridge 

"Whether you judge this play to be a poignant period piece or a strong statement about prejudice and its devastating results, the audience has to feel comfortable with and involved in the world on stage.This excellent production invited us to watch the effortless development of life in the Beauregard Private Hotel and it is missing the point to fixate on details. The director asked the right questions and gave us the clear opportunity to consider, enjoy and, maybe, judge some important life issues. Who could ask for more?" - Anon. Cambridge