Ten Times Table – Nov 2008

 

by Alan Ayckbourn

 

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Take an English village committee planning a pageant, add a committee of directors from Eastbourne village creating a play about it, and you have Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe’s hilarious next production of “Ten Times Table” by Alan Ayckbourn.

The village committee has been brought together to organise a supposedly uplifting pageant based on an incongruous piece of local history in which the ruling classes crushed an uprising of rebellious workers. Ayckbourn has great fun with the classic committee stereotypes. Anyone who has ever been on a committee will enjoy – the member who always has points of order, the one obsessed with finding spelling mistakes in the minutes. This committee becomes ideologically divided. In one corner we have the left wing side wanting to turn the pageant into a political rally, and in the other corner, the right wing side that will do anything to prevent them. Mayhem results.

This is the first time in recent memory where a BCTT production has been directed by a committee – John Marwick, Barry Mawer, Florence McFarlane and Will Clannachan, with help from Laurie Atkinson. ” We decided to do it this way because most of us wanted to be in the play and we all know we can work together”, says Coordinator Barry Mawer. “We also enjoyed the irony of a play about a committee being directed by a committee,” he said.

The play opened on November 5th and had a  break to allow the Muritai School Hall to be used for the general election. “We hesitate to draw any connections between the play and the election – but it’s tempting!” Barry said.

Cast & Production Team

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Review

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Reviewed by Ewen Coleman

Although written during the 1970’s when Alan Ayckbourn was at the zenith of his playwrighting career, Ten Times Table is a much gentler comedy than many of his plays written during the same period. And although the end of the play goes from comedy to farce it nevertheless still bears many of Ayckbourn’s hallmarks, namely the astute observation of human nature and the foibles and eccentricities of everyday, ordinary people. And there could be no better place to observe all this than a committee meeting, in this instance a group of locals from a small English village called Pendon who have been brought together by Roy, a local shopkeeper, with the assistance of his wife Helen, to put on a pageant for the local community.

It’s never really clear why there is a need for such an occasion other than to bring the community together and celebrate a little known fact about Pendon – the Massacre of the Pendon Twelve – a group of rebellious workers who were set upon by the Earl of Dorset and his militia. Roy has brought together an eclectic group of people to help him organize the pageant and his efforts in trying to run the committee and get the event off the ground is what drives the play. It soon becomes apparent however, after watching the progress of the meetings, that cohesion and harmony are not going be the order of the day as the right and left elements of the committee decide to take the original conflict for real and use it for their own ends.

The leader of the left is Marxist schoolteacher Eric and his new-found female companion Sophie along with his mousey, insignificant wife Phillipa. The leader of the right is Helen who is on her own for the most part till Councillor Evans, a stickler for formality, and Lawrence, an alcoholic
business man whose marriage is on the rocks comes onto Helen’s side, along with Roy himself.
They do though need extra help and Tim, Sophie’s brother, an ex army man, comes to assist, but in a rather more militaristic way than expected. In amongst all this is Councillor Evans aged and deaf mother who acts as Secretary and provides musical interludes.

Ten Times Table is a relatively static play in that the first four scenes are set around the committee table, requiring careful direction and subtle playing from the actors, who need to create lots of by-play between the characters and develop underlying tensions in order to make the dialogue visually interesting. While for the most part this was achieved with this production under the direction of John Marwick, Florence McFarlane and Will Clannachan it was still a little even at times and more involvement from the non-speaking characters, without being distracting, would have helped to give the overall scenes more colour and depth. The tensions between the two sides however was very well realised and became real and genuine. The final scene of the actual pageant is nothing but pure farce and in this production a lot more could have been done to create the required amount of mayhem and confusion.

For all that however this was an entertaining production of a play that had characters with traits and lines that many in the audience could identify with.

Photo Gallery

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Come on, which of these names do you object to?

Come on, which of these names do you object to?

Ray's tale of the Pendon 12 thrills all

Ray thrills all with his tale of the massacre of the Pendon 12

 

 

Tim assure the 'military side' there will be no violence

 

 

Oh, Captain Barlett, will you?

Oh, Captain Barlett, will you?

 

 

Eric's women prepare him for the fray

Eric's women prepare him for the fray, sorry, pageant.

 

 

Hurry up with those trousers girl

 

 

Audrey & Lawrence's rendition of the old tunes doesn't relieve Eric's pain

 

 

She's always messing with trousers that girl

 

 

The Swan Hotel, Pendon had seen batter days

The Swan Hotel, Pendon had seen better days

 

 

Where would we be without Kate (SM) and Julia(props)

Where would we be without Kate (SM) and Julia(props)

 

 

Ed does his usual scene stealing!

Ed does his usual scene stealing!

 

 

Carol rules the costume roost as usual

Carol rules the costume roost as usual

 

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