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Table review at New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme – ‘elevated by the calibre of its cast’

Phil Cheadle and Emma Lau in Table at New Vic. Photo: Andrew Billington
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The sturdy star of this time-travelling drama gives a wooden performance. Tanya Ronder’s 2013 play Table centres on the eponymous piece of furniture. It begins its life in Lichfield in 1898 after which it bears witness to the hopes and struggles of six generations of the same family, the Bests, silently noting all their highs and, more often, lows.

Given the South Staffordshire connection, it seems apt for the play to have its regional premiere at the New Vic.

As Ronder’s play crosses decades, and even continents, it provides a complex examination of human emotions. But the greatest strength of Zoe Waterman’s production is its superb cast. Tables features an outstanding performance from Polly Lister. A lengthy argument in which her character Michelle lays into her estranged partner Gideon (Phil Cheadle) is electrifying.

In other respects the production is not an easy watch. The characters confusingly morph into other family members and the action switches instantly between 1950s Tanganyika and a 1960s hippy commune in England. It can be confusing, although this is ameliorated by some beautiful hymn singing,

Everywhere the Bests go, the table goes too, making it a cumbersome device through which to tell this family history.

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A confusing, time-hopping family drama is elevated by the calibre of its cast