Despite having holidayed in North Norfolk countless times, and often walking past the Sheringham Little Theatre on my way to the fantastic ice cream parlour Ronaldo, for some reason it had never occurred to me to actually check out their programme.
It’s a lovely little venue, quite tardis like once you step inside, somehow managing to squeeze a bright and airy bar, and 180 seat theatre into a tiny space on the intersection of two roads in this seaside town. They also are one of the last remaining venues in the UK to run a professional repertory programme during the summer.
I like the concept of ‘proper’ repertory theatre, it is really interesting to see a company of actors tackle a range of plays and characters. And it must be an amazing experience for an actor to be challenged in that way, performing one play whilst rehearsing the next, even as is the case this year, performing two plays in one day at times. It’s a pity there isn’t more of it about.
This year the rep programme includes two connected Alan Ayckbourn plays in his Norman Conquests trilogy, Table Manners, and Round and Round the Garden. These focus on the same six characters over the same weekend in a country house, but each told from a different setting in the house.
Table Manners is the play that we were attending, which focussed on the dining room. The characters are the put upon Annie, who lives in the house with her unseen invalid mother, her neighbour, the sweet but clueless Tom, her brother Reg and his highly strung wife, Sarah, and the opportunistic womaniser and assistant librarian Norman and his wife Ruth.
It’s a very funny play with some excellent set pieces, but not pure farce, as it also makes some clever and scathing observations about the nature of the participants’ relationships with each other, and their own selfish motivations for their actions. I did feel the initial scene with Norman was slightly overplayed, but other that minor niggle I it was an excellent production, well directed and with a very good cast, especially Rebecca Todd as Annie. An excellent opener to their summer rep season, and looking at the varied programme they have planned, I wish I could have been around to see the other four.
Having ignored this lovely little theatre for many years, it is most definitely on my radar now, and next time I am in Norfolk I hope I can pay a repeat visit.