‘Round and Round the Garden’ is the final play in The Norman Conquests Trilogy written by Alan Ayckbourn. The first, ‘Table Manners’, was performed at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse during the summer of 2015, and the second play, ‘Living Together, was performed there in the summer of 2016. Artistic Director Neil Pankhurst, director of all three plays, set out to bring the trilogy to Playhouse audiences over the course of three consecutive summer seasons.
While each play stands on its own, they all take place at a country house in West Sussex, England, era 1974, and revolve around six characters and their feisty, flirty, and funny interactions one summer weekend. Each play takes place in a different area of the estate: one: the dining room, two: the living room and three: the garden. They even have overlapping scenes, where an exit in one play corresponds to an entrance in another. While the characters are the same and the plot of Norman conquering and confusing the females is same, each of the characters is showcased differently in each of the three plays. That being said, while I have seen each play and have enjoyed them all, there were a number of audience members who had not seen the previous two productions and they had no problem following the story and it was clear by their response they very much enjoyed this play.
As I mentioned, this play focuses on six characters, three of them grown-up siblings who bicker as if they were still children, and their significant others who contribute quite a bit to the squabbling and chaos. Annie, played by Shanel Sparr, lives in the family home and cares for her elderly mother. Sparr, who was new to the role this season, was likable and fit in nicely with the other cast members, all of whom were reprising their roles. Annie’s older brother is Reg, played by Richard Brundage, who is married to the uptight and harsh Sarah, played by Molly Parker Myers. This pair with all their snippiness and back and forth is very amusing and believably portray the married couple. Annie’s older sister is Ruth, played by Suzanne Kimball, who is married to Norman, a mischievous man who feigns his innocence, while manipulating everyone around him. Norman was outstandingly performed once again by Nicholas Wilder. Add in Annie’s sort-of boyfriend Tom, played by Jason Plourde, and these six personalities and temperaments clash and make for a very entertaining play. Kimball, was funny as Ruth and I enjoyed her scenes with the sweet but slow-to-catch-on Tom (Plourde). They played off each other wonderfully. Their dialogue was well timed with pauses for their characters’ awkwardness and confusion. I really enjoyed their interactions in this play; which added more to their characters and to the story overall than I what I had observed in the previous plays. Wilder, as Norman, has gotten stronger and funnier every time he has stepped back into this role. In each part of the trilogy, he has displayed charisma, perfect comedic timing, and great chemistry with his fellow actors. He is absolutely outstanding and I think this is one of his best roles at the Playhouse in his many years performing there.
The detailed and very pretty garden set was designed by Meredith Brown, who also did the set design for the previous plays in the trilogy. The lighting design was by Becky Marsh, assisted by Beth Marsh. The costumes were by Daneé Rose Grillo and the sound was designed by Neil Pankhurst.
This is a delightful comedy full of family drama, witty dialogue, playful flirtations and a top notch cast. It is a great play in which to escape, to relax and laugh for a few hours at the zany dysfunction of a family that isn’t your own. ©
‘Round and Round the Garden’ plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until August 26th with performances Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and a 2pm Matinee on August 21st. There are no Sunday performances. Tickets range from $20-$34 and are selling quickly. For additional information and tickets visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org
Special Events from the Education Department:
Tuesday, August Presented by Neil Pankhurst, Artistic Director
22nd 6-6:45pm - Symposium: “The English Garden: Techniques and Philosophies”.
Wednesday, August 23rd - Talk-back: Following the performance, you’re invited for an informal discussion with the cast and creative team.
Photo Credit: The cast of 'Round and Round the Garden', Courtesy The Winnipesaukee Playhouse.
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