The trilogy of plays known as 'The Norman Conquests' consists of Round and Round the Garden, Living Together and Table Manners, and the three plays centre on the charming, rakish Norman Dewars and his 'conquests'. The plays were written concurrently; that is to say the Ayckbourn wrote Act I of all three before going on to write Acts II and III in the same way. However, although the action takes place in different parts of the same house and garden, any of the plays can be performed independently of the others. Table Manners is set in the dining room and is undoubtedly the most popular play of the three.
The house is the former family home of Norman's wife Ruth, her brother Reg and their younger sister Annie, who still lives there with their widowed, bedridden mother. Annie has announced that she needs a weekend off and intends going on a short trip, so Reg and his wife, Sarah, have agreed to come and take care of mother for the weekend. But Annie is in fact secretly planning to meet up with Norman for an illicit weekend together, something she has never done before, and is actually rather unsure about. However, contrary to their arrangement, Norman shows up at the house early to collect her, and as a result everybody ends up staying at the house for the entire weekend. The plot hinges on the fact that the characters have differing degrees of understanding about what's actually going on.
The cast of the first London production in 1974 starred Tom Courtenay (Norman), Penelope Keith (Sarah), Felicity Kendal (Annie). Penelope Wilton (Ruth) and Michael Gambon (Tom, Annie's 'boyfriend'). Penelope Keith reprised the role of Sarah in the 1977 Thames Television production, which also starred Tom Conti (Norman), Penelope Wilton (Annie), Richard Briars (Reg) and David Troughton(Tom).
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