Separate Tables

November 2012

It is 10 years after the Second World War, and the Hotel Beauregard in Bournemouth are a number of individuals whose varied circumstances have brought them to this predictable existence, presided over by the resourceful Miss Cooper.

Terence Rattigan's characters are recognisable and believable: he has a way of constructing conversations which draws the eye of the audience to those who are not speaking. He also manages to make us care even about the least sympathetic of his characters.


Muriel - Janine Warre

Lady Matheson - Anny Kilbourne

Mrs Railton-Bell - Sally Elkerton

Miss Meacham - Jacquie Howatson

Doreen - Chris Eilbeck

Mr Fowler - David Batty

Mrs Shankland - Clare Rowland

Miss Cooper - Angela Wallwork

Mr Malcolm - Ian Taylor

Charles Stratton - Adam Owen-Jones

Jean Tanner - Tilly Webster

Major Pollock - Keith Palmer

Miss Railton-Bell - Marie Taylor

Casual guests - Rosie Munns, Bob Drury

Production Team:

Director - Clare Philbrock

Assisted by - Janine Warre

Lights - Peter Tapp

Set and publicity design - Phil Keen

Set construction - Eliot Wright and team

Settings and furniture - Howard Eilbeck

Props - Jill Mather, Tom Epton, Rosie Munns, Cally Pettit, Gordon Halliday

Production Manager - Alan Caig

Wardrobe - Clare Philbrock

Front of House - Members of the company and friends


From Estuary Magazine December 2012:

Not what is spoken, but what is left unsaid

Terence Rattigan was held in great esteem, deemed by many to be one of the few dramatists of the 21st century to write with so much understanding of the human condition. His work maintained a constant assault on English middle class values – fear of emotional commitment, frightened in the face of passion and apprehension about sex. Noel Coward wrote sharp and witty plays about the upper class, while Rattigan focussed on the lives of the middle class – his plays were not about what was spoken, but what was left unsaid. In the late 1950’s and early 60’s a new generation of politically conscious playwrights, such as John Osborne et al, started to write harsh portrayals of the lives of the lower working class, replacing Rattigan’s symbolism with realism. In a few years Rattigan was dismissed by the critics and his work deemed to be a period piece.

Under the skilful and creative direction of Clare Philbrock, Estuary Players production of ‘Separate Tables’ captured the very essence of Rattigan’s view of the world, as seen through his art of characterisation – an expose of middle class attitudes and the damage that results from outdated conventions. The play is set some 10 years after the end of World War 2. The place is England in the 1950’s – for many drear and depressed – a land of poor food, seedy boarding houses and of spinsters and widowers eking out their existence in the many seaside hotels up and down the country.

From the moment I walked into the auditorium of Matthews Hall, I was drawn into the world of Hotel Beauregarde, a small hotel in Bournemouth. The barrel organ churning out ‘Beside the Seaside’ the dark patterned walls, the standard lamps, the lounge with the empty chairs, the dining tables and chairs, empty and waiting to come to life- defining the set routine for the permanent residents who would be obliged to take their meals at individual tables, symbolising their isolation. Space was well used, although it was a pity some voices were lost, particularly when acting in the lounge area.

The play itself, is a double bill- with two emotionally contrasting stories. This combination provided a great platform for the cast to convey the differing personalities of the permanent residents – how they cope with the loss of their past lives, and how they manage to survive the daily rituals and routines. The role of Mrs Railton-Bell was the epitome of the middle class snobbery which Rattigan fiercely fought against. Sally Elkerton strongly conveyed her domineering and odious manner – words left unspoken, were made quite plain by her expressive facial expressions and mannerisms. The contrast between this and the role of Miss Cooper, the hotel manager, is marked. Angela Wallwork well portrayed the calm and efficient exterior revealing very little of her feelings to the residents or guests, believing it was necessary to put on a brave face, despite a broken heart. This balanced performance moved between reluctantly accepting her own fate, yet generously trying to help others towards the hope of a better future. Both were pivitol roles.

The main story line in the first play centres on the unexpected arrival of Anne Shankland, a model at the end of her career, previously married to John Malcolm, a permanent resident, a journalist with a hidden past. Clare Rowland captured well a brittle, aloof, manipulative yet vulnerable woman - the final acknowledgment of her fears and need for John’s continuing love was a hard balance to achieve, and this was well done. Ian Taylor was totally convincing as John, the former docker from Hull, disgraced Labour MP and junior minister who was imprisoned for assaulting his ex-wife. Here was an honest, forthright and passionate man who didn’t hold back, but risked saying it as it was, not like the others. With him there was no sub-text. Seeking comfort through drink, and a half hearted relationship with Miss Cooper, the audience were left in no doubt about his anger, hurt, loneliness and vulnerability caused by his constant and deep loving for Anne. A consummate performance.

The second play revolves around a court case and reverberations affecting the residents, manager and guests As Major Pollock, Keith Palmer sensitively portrayed the contrast between the person we meet initially- someone who, in appearance and manner, lived the life of a retired army Major, with a public school education. In fact this is a sham, which is exposed when it is revealed that he has recently been bound over for persistently abusing women in a local cinema. What was really good here, is that throughout Keith Palmer conveyed a gentle, perhaps rather boring man, who knew he was hiding behind a false image, to cover up his insecurity and fears. The scene in which the devastating realisation of how much this has affected his friendship with Sybil Railton- Bell is finely drawn. It is quietly raw – perhaps for the first time he is able to put in words to express what he really feels. A thoughtful and compassionate performance. Marie Taylor also gave a strong performance as Sybil, the down trodden, neurotic and painfully shy daughter of Mrs. R-Bell. This was a demanding role in many ways. So many times she was required to sit very still, her pale face not reflecting any feelings, unable to put forward any opinion of her own. Yet she always had a very strong presence. The nervous mannerisms when anxious, the constant submission in the face of her mother’ s strident domination, her confused, deeper feelings for the Major, never directly expressed, spoke volumes.

Anny Kilbourne, as Lady Matheson, the impoverished but cultured widow gave a consistently strong and controlled performance among a rich gallery of minor characters who provided the backdrop in this ensemble production. Janine Warre as Mabel, the taciturn and dependable waitress, partnered by Chris Eilbeck as Doreen, another waitress, talkative with the pert, bouncy walk Jackie Howatson’s eccentric Miss Meecham, the mild-mannered Mr Fowler, played by David Batty, Adam Owen-Jones as Charles Stratton, partnered by Tilly Webster as Jean Tanner/Stratton, the young visitors who holiday at this hotel. All played their part in leading to the uplifting climax, when the hotel residents realise that their future can be filled with far more courage that they had thought possible.

In a play with so much conversation, often with just two characters on stage, I felt there were times when a change of pace would have created more ‘light and shade’ within the dialogue, thus providing greater contrasts between the scenes. Apart from this, full congratulations go to Clare Philbrock and Estuary Players, in providing excellent entertainment, and for doing justice to this fine period piece. Well done!

- Reviewed by: Avril Pattison