Hay Fever and the comic moment even Coward couldn't write
Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio March 5 - 12

Not quite sure whether I got A Place At The Table (with a note from the director)

Christopher Tester as AdamA Place At The Table is certainly a meaty play but it feels a little bit like you've been eaves-dropping on bitter personal experience. Or it would if its writer Simon Block  didn't already have a number of TV series and a BAFTA nomination to his name*.

It's essentially about how far you should compromise your creative integrity in order to gain commercial success.

Set in a TV production house, Sarah (Kellie Batchelor) has as given up working in the theatre for a job that pays the mortgage ie TV script editing/commissioning. Disabled writer Adam (Christopher Tester) has had success with a play and his agent sets up a meeting with Sarah who wants to sound him out about writing a sit-com based around a disabled character.

The ensuing discussion about rights and wrongs of the proposals results in a heated exchange and Adam's sudden affronted departure. Several months later, having had a change of heart, he returns with a script for a six episode sit-com to find that the idea is no longer flavour of the month with Sarah.

According to the write ups on the website this is supposed to be a comedy but it just feels too bitter to laugh at and the characters a little too objectionable to laugh with. It certainly succeeds in making the TV industry feel cliquey, bitchy and cut-throat and perhaps that is a little too alienating for a mere-mortal TV-watcher like myself. It isn't shocking how commercial and lacking in imagination the commissioning process is but it is for how downright rude some of the characters are to each other.

When it is at it's best is in the meaty exchanges but it is less satisfying when the drama feels forced or contrived such as when newly promoted runner, Sammy (Jacob Dunn), gets drunk on celebratory champagne and staggers around the office in sick stained clothes verbally abusing people (in every other work place he'd be sent home surely).

Other than that it's nicely acted and staged in the small but perfectly form Tristan Bates Theatre so I'm going to give it 3 and a half stars.

A Place At The Table runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until March 17. Production shots are by Nick Pomeroy.

* Had an email from director Robert Wolstenholme and I got this part wrong for which I apologise - not doing my back research thoroughly enough. He said: 

Simon wrote the A Place at the Table in 2000, before most of his TV work and a good eight years before his BAFTA nomination. In other words, I suspect that the play does come from personal experience and wasn't written by a successful writer, biting the hand that feeds him. Whether that changes anything, I don't know - I suspect probably not since the play's black bitterness was what you didn't like - but I thought it worth saying.

Does it change anything for me? Well it certainly explains the bitterness but I not sure that knowledge would have made it any funnier or the characters more likeable.

Kellie Batchelor as Sarah

Jacob Dunn as Sammy

Eva Tausig as Rachel