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Separate Tables

© Mike Rouse

Separate Tables
Methodist Church, Soham

Viva Theatre’s production of ‘Separate Tables’ by Terence Rattigan was splendid. It takes real skill, huge talent and a well crafted script to hold an audience captive for hours and this play did more than this, it explored in depth the human psychological condition.

Each character rang true and their mix created fascinating, sometimes volatile scenes. Their personality weaknesses were painfully revealed and as the play progressed, they became stronger and more able to cope with the world. The hotel, a place where strangers meet, provided a most fitting backdrop for events for above all the utter loneliness of the characters was a major theme in the play. This was made evident by some excellent acting. There were many times when the characters appeared to be doing or saying little, yet we all knew that under their calm façade, high emotions broiled. We were held transfixed.

John Malcolm (portrayed magnificently by Rob Barton) was the passionate journalist inclined to drink too much, and be violent. His ex-wife Anne Shankland (Jenny Tayler- Surridge) was almost an exact opposite: elegant and frustratingly aloof. In spite of the love forlorn Manageress of the hotel, Pat (Chloe Grimes), John and Anne played their relationship out fully until it was finally satisfactory resolved.

The down-to earth spinster Miss Meacham was played admirably by Kirsten Martin. Major Pollock (Rowan Maulder) began as a flamboyant character that was almost too good to be true. This was proved to be the fact and he was finally persuaded to be more courageous and just be himself. His friend Sibyl (Kerry Hibbert), a frightened mouse of a girl, brow-beaten by her domineering mother Mrs Railton-Bell, finally stood up to her bully at the end of the play. Many of the Major’s lies were found out by the quiet wisdom of retired teacher Mr Fowler (David Tickner). Katie Nolan made her character Mrs Railton-Bell truly bossy, scandal mongering and inclined to pretend to be kind, while driving the knife into her victimes’ backs. The hotel residents came good in the end and refused let her have the Major removed from the hotel because of his indiscretions. Her reliance on her gossiping pal Lady Matheson (Anthea Kenna) foundered. The lively Jean (Danielle Swanson) and the forbearing Charles (Scott Robertson) added spice and humour to the mix.

As in any hotel, there was also the staff whose mannerisms were familiar even today sometimes loud, nosey and petulant: Doreen (Sarah Shorney), Mabel (Kate Weekes) and Janet (Julie Kowalczyk). The casuals, Rev. Colin Watkins and Bernie Watkins were a most fitting addition to the case.

Congratulations to Director, Mary Barnes and team for a wonderful production.