Play review by Julia Pattison: Ten Times Table at Grand Opera House, York

Ten Times Table was staged at Grand Opera House in York.
Ten Times Table was staged at Grand Opera House in York.

Play: Ten Times Table

Venue: Grand Opera House, York

Review by: Julia Pattison

Ten Times Table by Alan Ayckbourn premiered in 1977, and has been revived by Bill Kenwright’s Classic Comedy Theatre Company, and features an impressive cast. Known for his keen observations of people,

Ayckbourn had been inspired to write Ten Times Table after suffering the tedium of attending an “interminable series of repetitive ( and largely non-productive ) committee meetings ” to finance the move of his theatre Company.

“Ten Times Table is a study of the committee person ” says Ayckbourn in the programme, and indeed it is.

How true that saying is “While Minutes Are Taken, Hours Are Lost!”

I remember seeing this play in the 70s, and also recall how popular Ayckbourn plays were with the sort of Amateur Dramatic groups mentioned by one of his characters, self-important local councillor Donald (played to perfection by Mark Curry).

Those of us of a certain age would be very familiar with groups such as the Pendon Players, but it was clear that a lot of young people in the audience were not.

And there’s the rub. Although I knew exactly what Ayckbourn was trying to say, this was a play very much of its time, and despite the stellar cast, rather limped along, particularly in the static, and frankly rather tedious first half.

There were some funny moments; Robert Daws was excellent in his portrayal of committee chairman Ray, and his drawn out words, along with his posturing, was most entertaining.

Deborah Grant was in marvellous mode as his highly opinionated and vocal wife, with Elizabeth Power almost stealing the show at times with her portrayal of Donald’s octogenarian mother taking on the role of secretary trying to take the minutes.

Harry Gostelow came into his own as military man Tim in the second half, as the pace picked up and the pageant played out, quickly turning into a farce.

All credit to the cast, who did their best to inject life into this classic play, but it was all as faded as the Swan Hotel Ballroom the meetings were held in. Great in its time, but not a play for today.