Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Living Together (The Norman Conquests)

Laura Condlln, Albert Schultz, Fiona Reid (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

The Spoiled of War
by Ramya Jegatheesan

Norman’s sordid romantic adventures continue in Living Together, the second of Alan Ayckbourn’s triptych of comedic plays, The Norman Conquests, where a libidinous librarian’s sexual cravings are unleashed upon a squabbling family in a run-down English country home. Norman tells us he is a three-women-a-day man, and he is out to prove it. 

Here, we glimpse the cast of six as they move from dining room to living room, offering us another window into the once secret dirty weekend gone awry. 

Watching Soulpepper’s Living Together is like piecing together pieces of a larger mystery: even while the initial intrigue begins to wear off, the family’s dysfunction becomes ever more clear. Annie (Laura Condlln) is feistier and angrier; Tom (Oliver Dennis) more dim-witted; and Norman (Albert Schultz, Soulpepper’s artistic director), well, Norman is more of a scoundrel than you might ever imagine. And oh, the bearskin rug! Far too much happens on that rug. 

Part of the genius of Living Together is the way it plays off Table Manners: everything takes on added meaning. We see new depths in the characters. They are more complex and more damaged than we may have initially thought. But they are also good people, so human in their flaws and yearnings. It is impossible to hate them and so easy to love them. 

These plays are about sad miserable people in broken relationships desperately clinging to one another. It makes for a provocative and dark union yet the plays are riotously funny. I have never seen so much laughter fill a theatre. While Living Together is not as funny as its counterpart, Table Manners, it is no less brilliant. From the intimate in-the-round set which makes you feel like you can reach out for a goblet full of deadly dandelion wine to the actors who have impeccable timing and perfect chemistry, Living Together is a worthy and hilarious addition to the series. It arouses curiosity about all the unsavoury goings-on in the garden and sets up deliciously what I anticipate will be an explosive finish. 

Watching The Norman Conquests is like living in a novel, a rare theatrical treat. Watch any or all, but if you can, go see each and every one of them. You won’t regret it. 

Run time: 2 hours with one 20-minute intermission.                                                                             
Runs to November 16

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