I finally got a chance to see at least one of the three plays that comprise The Norman Conquests. Last night I caught Table Manners, and based on that experience, I'm really hoping to see Living Together and Round and Round the Garden as well. I get the feeling that part of the fun of this comic trilogy is seeing the connections among the three. All of the plays feature the same characters over one weekend in July. Each play is set in a different area of the same house: the dining room, the garden, and the parlor. As I laughed heartily at the comic goings on in Table Manners, I could already get a sense of what was happening in the other locations, and I really can't wait to see the other two plays.
The Norman Conquests features a prodigiously talented cast of six actors who each craft distinct and rich characterizations. It's a shame to single out any one performer, because the ensemble work here is just so strong, but I was particularly taken with Ben Miles as the awkward and clueless Tom. But there's also superb work here from Amanda Root as uptight harridan Sarah, and Jessica Hynes as the dowdy but burgeoning Annie. No less distinct were the delightfully dorky Paul Ritter and Amelia Bullmore as the acid-tongued and near-sighted Ruth. And at the center of it all is the eponymous Norman, played with charming eccentricity by Stephen Magnan.
But the real star of these three shows is director Matthew Warchus. After spinning comic gold from literary dross with Boeing-Boeing, then turning God of Carnage into the biggest hit play in decades, and a laugh riot to boot, and now shaping the comedic masterpiece that is The Norman Conquests (with more than a little help from playwright Alan Ayckbourn), Warchus has established himself as a masterful director. His work reflects not only a solid flair comedy, but also a deft touch at pathos. Both God of Carnage and Norman Conquests are achingly funny, but they also reveal the pain and loneliness beneath the bluster that make the productions, and the people in them, that much more compelling to watch.
The Norman Conquests run at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre until July 26th. Catch it if you can. You might just see me there.