Norman Conquests Put Old Vic In-the-Round, 6 OctDate: 20 May 2008
The Old Vic has announced programming details for its long-planned revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s trilogy The Norman Conquests (See News, 9 May 2006). Matthew Warchus’ productions of the three plays, the first in London in 34 years, will run in rep from 6 October to 20 December 2008 (previews from 11 September), in a specially reconfigured in-the-round Old Vic auditorium, recreating the intimacy of the original staging of the comedies.
The trilogy is played out in three different areas of the house - Table Manners in the dining room, Living Together in the living room and Round and Round the Garden in the garden – with the action of each occurring simultaneously. 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, charm his brother-in-law Reg’s wife Sarah and woo his wife Ruth during a disastrous weekend.
Written over a week in early 1973, The Norman Conquests premiered at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, where Ayckbourn first mounted all of his plays during his time as artistic director there. The trilogy had its London premiere in 1974 starring Tom Courtenay as Norman in a then relatively unknown ensemble that also included Michael Gambon, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Wilton and Penelope Keith.
At the Old Vic, Stephen Mangan (Noises Off, Hayfever on stage, Green Wing, The Cappuccino Years, Confetti on screen) will play Norman alongside Amelia Bullmore as Ruth, Jessica Hynes (Son of Rambow, Spaced) as Annie and Paul Ritter (last seen on stage in The Hothouse for which he was Whatsonstage.com Award nominated) as Reg.
The Norman Conquests is directed by Warchus and designed by Rob Howell (who won this year’s Whatsonstage.com Best Set Designer Award for The Lord of the Rings, directed by Warchus). Warchus and Howell’s other collaborations include Boeing-Boeing, which has just been nominated for six Tony Awards for its Broadway transfer. Warchus recently directed Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey in Speed-the-Plow at the theatre as well as the English-language premiere of Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, currently at the West End’s Gielgud Theatre with Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig, Janet McTeer and Ken Stott.
Commenting on the transformation of the Old Vic auditorium, which is being funding by asset management group CQS and the Hintze Family Charitable Foundation, Warchus said: “I have always been excited by the magical effect that ‘in-the-round’ has on audiences, performers and design. Seeing Ayckbourn performed in this setting, compared to a conventional proscenium arch, can I think be revelatory.”
Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden can be seen in any order. During the Old Vic run, there will be five Saturdays when all three will be performed over one day, though in different arrangements on different dates.
- by Terri Paddock