The Norman Conquests

Three plays in one day, in the round, at the Old Vic.

Ok I’m intrigued.

Cast: Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter, Amanda Root.

Can’t fault that.

Author: Alan Ayckbourn.

Ok where do I sign up.

The Norman ConquestsIt’s since transferred to the Circle in The Square in New York but for a few Saturdays you could see all of the trilogy in one day here in London. Yes you ended up with some lumbar issues but well worth it.

The Norman ConquestsBrilliant observations and meditation on the comic hypocrisy and manners of Middle England. Your sympathies veer from one to another throughout the play(s) but you never really hate any of the imperfect characters, it’s far too gentle.

They irritate you and confound you but their traits and mannerisms are always hilarious and recognisable. Each scene and exchange of background information are preparation for the next revelation, twist, pratfall or gag. Sometimes bittersweet, sometimes a sharp social barb wrapped in absurdity, sometimes laugh out loud ridiculous, it never disapoints and you are (despite your numb rear) left wanting more.

The Norman ConquestsStephen Mangan carries the goodwill he accrued in Green Wing and adds to it. Working with Jessica Hynes so well just seems so logical and natural. She shines despite her dowdy attire. But it is an ensemble piece and they take to it like ducks to the village pond, it is consistently greater than the sum of it’s parts. Tight, well written and slick, it’s a joy to sit there and watch home grown comedy at its best.

The novelty of the ‘in the round’ format works in the Old Vic. And it’s heartening to see something revived in London garnering plaudits on Broadway too.

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