This inaugural production from Bill Kenwright’s The Classic Comedy Theatre Company has a great cast – but feels slightly flat.
What happens when you put a bunch of characters with different views around one table in order to create a pageant that re-enacts a local piece of history? Well as seen by this gentle comedy – a lot of chaos as power struggles and opinions divide the committee creating plenty of opportunities for hilarity. Yet it feels as though we are constantly waiting for the comedy to shine through.
The trouble with Alan Ayckbourn’s play is that by basing it in one place (the Swan Hotel ballroom) and with characters simply sitting around getting increasingly vexed there is not much for the audience to really react to as the play is based around a series of committee meetings. Yes the script is full of Ayckbourn’s trademark humour but even that becomes slightly predictable as it goes along.
However, that is not to say that the production, directed by Robin Herford doesn’t have its moments – particularly in the brief second act in which all hell breaks loose on the day of the pageant adding touches of farce that really uplifts the show as a whole. It feels as though the characters and the cast are finally really able to let go.
While Herford’s gentle production could have perhaps made more of the comical moments in the script more, it is a production that really manages to draw out the big personalities who begin to clash as they jostle for more power and control. The cast all thoroughly make the most of the diversity of their characters to great effect.
Robert Daws as Ray, a chairman who gradually loses control over the committee as it slowly turns into a full scale battle comically highlights his character’s increasing despair. It is a performance that is nicely controlled and always entertaining to watch as is Deborah Grant as Helen a strong and demanding personality whose embittered battles with Craig Gazey’s passionate marxist teacher Eric become a real strong focus point. Gazey offers a great energy for his character that never lets up from start to finish, with his final impassioned speech before the end of the first act immensely enjoyable to listen and to watch unfold.
Overall, while Ten Times Table is gently entertaining and the audience around me seemed to enjoy themselves, it is hard to shake the feeling that this is a play that feels it needs more to lift it up to make it more enjoyable.
By Emma Clarendon