The Tower Theatre
Reviewed – 22nd November 2018
“staging makes inventive use of the emblematic, central table while creative lighting enhances dramatic moments”
Weaving through six generations over 115 years, ‘Table’ follows the Best family’s journey from the end of the 19th century to the present day. The solid, polished table, crafted by David Best in Lichfield in 1898, travels with them through two world wars, to a missionary post in Tanganyika in the 1950s, back to a sixties commune in Herefordshire and, finally, to south London; it plays a part in birth, death, games, discussions and decisions, and is witness to the thousands of meals which have brought everyone together, its scars a cryptic memoir. The central figure is Gideon, born illegitimately in Africa to a missionary nun, and briefly brought up there, then in a hippie commune, but his alternative past leaves an indelible mark and he eventually abandons his own wife and son. Tanya Ronder’s sharp, touching dialogue knits non-linear scenes together to draw us into their history on a very personal level, sympathising and empathising with the many engaging characters.
Director, Simona Hughes, achieves a sense of fluidity as the different eras superimpose, using hymns, African folk tunes and children’s songs (Music – Colin Guthrie) to link the changes of time and place. Her staging makes inventive use of the emblematic, central table while creative lighting (Alan Wilkinson) enhances dramatic moments and colours tableaux. Philip Ley’s set design highlights the epochs with simple variations of tablecloths and crockery and the costumes (Anna Pearshouse) are aptly descriptive, if somewhat patchy for the hippie commune.
The cast of nine double and triple up on the 23 roles with accomplished clarity. In particular, Dickon Farmar as Gideon takes us movingly through the agony of his childhood and Rebecca Allan’s Sarah, Gideon’s mother, slowly transforms from innocence to disillusionment. Kayne McCutcheon gives excellent interpretations of Gideon’s son, Anthony, weighed down with the anxiety of growing up with an absent father, and of Finlay, his great-grandfather who, tormented by the war, punishes his nearest and dearest. Su-Lin (Yuyu Wang) is a breath of fresh air and hope as the final tensions rise, but it is Nicholas Cannon as Albert, Sarah’s twin, who truly moves us as he paints a painfully distressing contrast to his bubbly nature as a child and is left by both his sister and his mother to care for his disabled father, unable to express his own desires in the repressive fifties.
Tower Theatre Company offers an enjoyable evening of fine acting, if sometimes slightly slack in pace, with some self-contained fragments of drama but not one culminating point to shape the play. Not often seen in the theatre, it is a wide-angled slice of history. Without sending out a powerful message, ‘Table’ strikes a poignant note about the emotional baggage we inherit and how, unconsciously, we pass that on.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Robert Piwko
The Tower Theatre until 1st December
Previously reviewed at this venue: