The Norman Conquests: World Premiere Reviews

This page contains reviews of the world premiere production of Alan Ayckbourn's Round & Round The Garden at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in June 1973. It is not a complete set of reviews as the aim of the page is to offer a flavour of how the play was originally received and to offer a cross-section of opinion. All reviews on this page are the copyright of the respective publication and / or author and should not be reproduced. Extracts from reviews of the original West End production of The Norman Conquests can be found here.

Round And Round The Garden (by Robin Thornber)
"So there's Norman rolling on the grass with Annie, when his wife Ruth, who is Annie's sister, comes on and so Tom, who is Annie's boy friend, grabs Ruth, because he thinks she fancies him, although she doesn't really, and then Sarah is shocked because she thought Norman was after her and poor old Reg, her husband, can't roll around with anybody because Annie and Ruth are his sisters - you make take notes if you think it will help.
Round And Round The Garden is the third in a trio of new comedies written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn for the summer season of Theatre-in-the-Round at Scarborough Library. This one deals with what was going on in the garden, while Fancy Meeting You and Make Yourself At Home which opened in repertory last month, looked at what was happening in the dining room and living room respectively, during the same weekend. Got that? Good.
Each play is complete in itself and you can see them in any order. But for the next couple of weeks at least they'll be run so that you can see all three in series on consecutive nights. And taken together, as they really should be, unless you are content to be only 30 per cent muddled, they amount to a lot of laughs. Big rollicking belly laughs at the broad farce, nudging, knowing, sniggers at the way developments of plot and character are linked from play to play and quiet chuckles of recognition at the tell-tale minutiae.
You might occasionally experience a nagging irritation that Mr Ayckbourn's ingenuity as both a writer and director should be spent, even squandered, on matters so trivial. His brittle brilliance, and the closely observed and enthusiastically performed playing of Stanley Page, Alex Marshall, Janet Dale, Christopher Godwin, Rosalind Adams, and Ronald Herdman, all the acute social and psychological perception of both director and company seems wasted on a middle-class marital romp. But mostly you're too caught up in it all, too disarmed by the charm of these flawed and fallible loveable little people with their limited aspirations and lesser achievements. You're laughing too much for such carping thoughts.
And then look at the audience, talk to the performers. As one of the company said to me last time, this is one place where your idealism comes back."
(The Guardian, 11 July 1973)

Remarkable Ayckbourn Trilogy
"Fears that Alan Ayckbourn might find it impossible to maintain the hilarious standards set by the first two plays of his summer trilogy were allayed last night at the Library Theatre.
Round And Round The Garden is, in many ways, even funnier than its two precursors, though it is in other ways more thought-provoking.
And though the play has the occasional slow moment - never apparent in the previous two - and a thinnish ending, it marks a remarkable achievement on the part of Mr. Ayckbourn. For without apparent effort, or any "stretching" of material, he has made three self-contained plays out of one situation featuring the same six players in the same house on the same weekend.
The situation has been explained before - the family has gathered because young sister Annie, the drudge who looks after ailing mother, plans a week-end away with philanderer Norman.
Fancy Meeting You and Make Yourself At Home displayed the situation as seen in the dining-room and the living-room. Last night's play is set, of course, in the garden - and a wonderful set it is, executed by David Price.
The performances, too, have been commented upon previously - but, again, the honours must go to Chris Godwin as that lovely character Norman, and to Ronnie Herdman, as Tom, the vacillating vet.
Now that all three plays have had their premieres they will, from Thursday, run in sequence on successive nights until the end of the month. Don't miss them.
Last year the Sunday Times said of Mr. Ayckbourn that there was probably not another playwright in the country who had his new works premiered on a shoestring in a room above a resort's public library.
Quaint, yes, but it has stopped being funny now. Surely the Library Theatre has proved itself. Surely Scarborough must soon wake up to the fact that is has as a gift what virtually amounts to a resident genius.
It is a gift which could, with the right treatment, give Scarborough that sought-for out-of-season attraction.
Instead, it looks as though the theatre in the round may be without even its present inadequate home next year, while other, more enlightened resorts wait to welcome it with open arms."
(Scarborough Evening News, 10 July 1973)

All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.