Table Manners is the first of three plays in Alan Ayckbourn's "trilogy", The Norman Conquests. All three plays (Table Manners, Living Together, and 'Round and 'Round the Garden) take place simultaneously - when one character leaves, say, the dining room setting of Table Manners, he/she walks into the garden or living room sets of the other plays and the action continues. Each play does stand alone, with Table Manners being the acknowledged "funniest" of the three (acknowledged by critics and Ayckbourn himself). The plays are set in England and are very "British."
Briefly, the story centers around an extended family of two sisters and an older brother and their mates. Annie, the youngest of the three, still lives at home tending to an elderly, bedridden mother we never see.
The action begins when Sarah and Reg (Annie's older brother) arrive to give Annie the chance to escape for the weekend for a long-needed rest. Fireworks begin almost immediately when Annie tells Sarah she is going away with her sister's husband, Norman. That pretty much sets the tone for the evening: an extended family whose members simultaneously despise each other and can't get enough of each other. The central figure is Norman, who needs desperately to be needed--by anyone. It's almost hard to blame him, too, once you meet his wife, Ruth, a career-obsessed woman with little apparent need for Norman. Rounding out the cast is Tom, the veterinarian neighbor whom everyone assumes is courting Annie (including, to some degree, Tom and Annie, even though the two haven't ever declared it or acted on it).
Click on the links on the left to see the cast and character lists for 'Table Manners'.