1 9 7 7 (UK)
3 x 120 minute episodes
The Norman Conquests comprised a trilogy of two-hour plays, each examining a weekend from Saturday evening to Monday morning, from a different perspective.
The first was titled ‘Table Manners’ and was set entirely in the dining room of a family’s country house.
Reg (Richard Briers) and Sarah (Penelope Keith) volunteered to care for the home and Reg’s ailing mother while his sister Annie (Penelope Wilton) enjoyed a desperately needed break.
But neurotic, fretting, prudish and hypertense Sarah quickly discovered that Annie’s good time away from home was to be enjoyed in the company of her brother-in-law Norman (Tom Conti).
With puritanical zeal Sarah short-circuited this sinful exploit setting the scene for a tension-laden, frequently hilarious confrontation between one and all.
Norman, from whose name the title was taken, was an impish, appealing, pathetic figure: a self-proclaimed “three-a-day-man”, “a gigolo trapped in a haystack”.
Supported by his ambitious and successful wife, Ruth (Fiona Walker), he was starved of affection and consequently easily led to make the rendezvous with his sister-in-law.
It was never really clear whether to love the bearded little twit or despise him. Tom Conti played the role superbly.
Penelope Keith’s role changed little from that of the lovable snob she played so well in The Good Life. She was excellent throughout.
Briers played henpecked husband Reg with an apparently inexhaustible ability to remain optimistic and light-hearted in even the most heated exchanges.
Penelope Wilton’s Annie was a pathetic figure: frustrated, desperate to spread her wings, but caged by uncertainty and the needs of her bed-ridden mother.
David Troughton played Tom, the local vet, a dullard who could so easily have had the whole-hearted attention of Annie.