Separate Tables review

By Bev Clark, from Hand In Hand Theatre.

So glad I got to see BDS’s Separate Tables last night at the Gladstone Theatre.
The crème de la crème of local actors came together in this excellent ensemble cast, to present Rattigan’s play with all its subtleties – both dramatic and comic – giving a really good evening’s entertainment.
Set in a hotel dining room and lounge, the play serves up some delicious characters. Starting with the three resident ladies – Lady Matheson(Geraldine Moloney Judge), Mrs Railton-Bell (Caroline Kay) and Miss Meacham (Betty Oliver) – What a delightful entrée these three gave us with their over-dinner conversation, with little interjections from the waitresses Mabel (Jane Wing) and Doreen (Pauline Garland) who played all the humour with perfect timing and delivery.
The “Main course” of this first Act is a love triangle between Malcolm –a rough, working class failed politician played with real strength and conviction by Will O’Neill. Malcolm is still in love with Anne his ex-wife, the aging high-class model, played by Phillippa Hipwell, looking exceptional glamorous in some exquisite costumes. The hotel manager Miss Cooper is in love with Malcolm but knows she will not win him. Played by Anna Shaw this was a truly natural, well placed performance and was the calming link between all the slightly eccentric characters. Some good supporting roles with the Strattons (Charlotte Neary and Gareth Jones) and Mr Fowler played by director and last minute stand-in David Oliver.
In Act II – the dessert proves just as substantial as the first course with both sweet and bitter moments. The revelation of Major Pollack’s indiscretions played by Charles Riley. He got just the right balance with this character who is not who he purports to be. We see just how nasty Mrs Railton-bell can be and her selfishness to her long suffering daughter Sybil, played sympathetically by Fiona Williams. There were some lovely relationships in this Act but – for me -the duologue between Sybil and Pollack stole the show as it really got to the heart of what this play is about –Loneliness.
All these characters are rather sad and pathetic but in the end Rattigan gives them a glimmer of strength and hope, despite the conformities of the times and restrictions of the period. I was so pleased BDS chose to perform the script Rattigan originally intended.
With some sharp direction and great costumes and set – this all made for a really super production.