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The Norman Conquests
cast: Tom Conti, Penelope Wilton, Penelope Keith, Richard Briers, and Fiona Walker

director: Herbert Wise

305 minutes (12) 1978
Metrodome Ovation DVD Region 2 retail
Also available to buy on video

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Barry Forshaw
Metrodome Ovation continues to put theatre lovers in their debt by making available some highly cherishable theatrical material previously transferred to TV or film. While the technical quality of these issues is rarely more than serviceable, the plays themselves are generally first-rate - and even include several masterpieces of modern theatre.
   The word 'masterpiece' doesn't quite spring to mind with Alan Ayckbourn's shamelessly enjoyable modern comedy of manners trilogy (Table Manners, Living Together, Round And Round The Garden), but this is highly diverting stuff - particularly when performed by a cast that includes some of the finest comic actors this country has to offer. As the dishevelled Norman of the title works his way through various hapless middle-class women during a single weekend, the one-liners are thick on the ground, but (as so often with Ayckbourn), it's the observation of character that pays the real dividends, and Penelope Wilton's Annie is a particularly richly realised creation. If Ayckbourn's sardonic analysis of middle-class mores seems more lightweight these days than when the films were made, the viewer is still afforded some wonderful entertainment.
   Some caveats, though they hardly matter: though specially filmed for TV (sans audience), some of the performances - notably that of the otherwise excellent Penelope Keith - seem pitched to the gallery, and unbalance the more understated playing of Wilton's Annie; and your reaction to Tom Conti as the eponymous would-be womaniser will depend on whether you find him zanily funny or cosmically irritating; the golden mean is probably somewhere in the middle. In the end, though, those Evening Standard Awards gleaned by the trilogy still seem more than justified.
   There are no extras; picture quality is acceptable if lacking sharpness (inevitable with TV material of this age).

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