Review of Separate Tables by North West End

Sir Terence Rattigan’s twentieth century play takes place in the Beauregard Private Hotel of Bournemouth, and depicts the relationships between several long-term guests, each battling their own loneliness. Tonight’s production is put on by the Levenshulme Players, and takes place in the crowded function room of the Klondyke Club, a space not really suited to theatre, but utilised well by this local group.

The performance is essentially two separate plays, set 18 months apart in the dining room and lounge of the hotel. Director Beryl Cowen makes good use of the small stage, packing it out with tables and chairs, with mood lighting provided by the quaint lamps. The cast copes well with the spacing challenges, dodging set and moving between levels admirably. Due to the audience being on two sides, this did present some issues, with quite a lot of the dialogue being directed upstage.

Which brings me to my main issue with the performance, and the two words all am dram actors hate hearing; projection and diction! Unfortunately a lot of the text was inaudible from a few of the characters, and the actors also had the added challenge of being heard over the snooker match next door. The play is very wordy, and an injection of volume and pace would have helped massively.
At almost three hours with an interval it certainly could have been trimmed down a fair bit too.

Minor niggles out of the way, the cast worked very well together, and on the whole were very good performers. Lois Gale as the overbearing Mrs Railton-­Bell demonstrated a crystal clear voice, and played her part to perfection. I also hugely enjoyed her facial expressions during the newspaper reading, which had the audience in stitches. Jonathan Barton as Mr Stratton was probably the standout performer, demonstrating exceptional comic timing, a flawless accent, and pitching his performance perfectly. Reading the programme it seems he has the most experience of all the players, and is currently working on a one man show entitled ‘Brian Blessed the Musical’.

Bob Kenyon as Major Pollock is loud, obnoxious and incoherent, and it absolutely works! Near the end of the second act, and particularly his ‘confession’ scene, he has some wonderfully tender moments, showing that he is not just a comedy actor. Dawn Hull gives a natural and restrained performance as Sybil, and Jill Bridgman is a caring Miss Cooper, the hotel manager and counsellor! I also enjoyed Adam Williams as Mr Malcolm, Gemma Cowen as Jean, and Abbi Robinson-­Nelson as Lady Matheson, who surprisingly was making her theatre debut tonight.

I must also give special mention to Adele Shi, playing waitress Doreen. Despite English not being her first language, she coped admirably with the script and actually had some of the funniest lines in the show.

Overall the production is probably a couple of rehearsals short of perfection. However, the group have managed to put on an ambitious production, and I hope they continue to do so in the future. They are a credit to the community of Levenshulme.

Reviewed: 13th May 2016
Reviewer: Poppy Stewart

Originally published by www.northwestend.co.uk on the 14th May 2016.

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