I’ve got nearly seventeen hanging baskets in the back of my mind since seeing London Road. So when I discovered that the director, Rufus Norris, had worked with the National Theatre once again, I was keen to see his new production.
Table was held on NT’s newest stage, The Shed. It is a striking red beacon that commands attention from anyone strolling down the South Bank; it will be hosting performances until 2014 whilst the Cottesloe undergoes a major redevelopment. The intimacy of The Shed, with just 225 seats, is a twee theatre that worked in Table’s favour. The long, wooden, er… table, that dominates the stage demanded curiosity and chatter amongst its audience until the lights were dimmed.
What I loved about Table was the essence of travel it portrayed, metaphorically as well as literally. From World War One, to a nunnery in Africa, to a hippy ‘free-love’ community, the generations of a single family are traced across the decades. Starting from the creation of the table, we experience births, marriages, deaths and make journeys across the sea and back again.
The table survives scratches, bleach, urine, leopard’s claws, nun’s nails (just to name a few) and the characters portray their own sufferings and attachments related to the great table that governs every scene.
With many of the table’s blemishes explained (the justification for the urine being a particularly humorous scene), it is undoubtedly the soaring of the four, sturdy legs which produced the biggest impact to the play. As if the word ‘prop’ is unsatisfactory for the table, it becomes a heavily involved character whose destruction (and consequent reconstruction) is empirical to the play as a whole.
Just as the character David Best, carpenter, created the fixture from which the play was born, Tanya Ronder worked tirelessly at carving the story into one that boasted an authentic dialogue. The snaking plot did leave my brain reeling at times (“who was his son? and who was she to them again?”) but it would be truculent to deny the play the celebration it deserves. Any show that can insert English hymns and African tribal songs into a single production, include the line ‘my dick’s perfect’, and splay fake leopard blood up a wall, deserves a recommendation from me.