A trio of interlocking comedies about three couples spending a crazy weekend at an English country home, each hilarious play in The Norman Conquests trilogy is set in a different location: the dining room in Table Manners, the living room in Living Together, and outside in the garden in Round and Round the Garden.
Alan Ayckbourn, the prolific British playwright who specializes in wacky comedic plays with serious undertones, has crafted an intricate comic puzzle with The Norman Conquests, writing each play so that it essentially takes place at the same time as the others. If you see all three (and you can watch them in any order), the puzzle will be complete. However, each play is also a satisfying theatrical experience on its own, so you don’t have to see the entire trilogy. Either way, you’re in for at least one great evening of hysterical farce as you watch shaggy playboy Norman trying to seduce the various women at the house.
The Norman Conquests revival is winding up its run at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre with just 10 days to go before it ends. This Broadway production (which originated in London) offers the rare chance to see all three plays in Alan Ayckbourn’s hilarious trilogy in repertory with the same excellent six-person cast. Fans of British film and TV will probably recognize at least two of the actors, Ben Miles (Coupling) and Amanda Root (Jane Austen’s Persuasion), and will quickly become fans of the other four as well after seeing their wonderful turns in all three plays.
The Norman Conquests follows three couples during a weekend at a country house, viewing the action from three different locales: the dining room in Table Manners, the living room in Living Together, and the garden in Round and Round the Garden. In a feat of fine craftsmanship, Ayckbourn managed to write each play so that it stands on its own, yet when you see all three, you have the benefit of getting the larger picture. A character’s exit in one play becomes his entrance in another, making an intricate puzzle. And while this set-up makes for some phenomenal farce that keeps the whole audience laughing itself silly, The Norman Conquests also has serious undertones. It’s at once a comic and tragic look at romantic relationships.
There are still three more trilogy days left, where you can view all three plays in one marathon day. If that’s a bit intense, you can also catch them on separate days, or just see one or two (Table Manners and Living Together were our favorites). Find out more info here.