Separate Tables

‘Separate Tables’
Two Plays by Terence Rattigan
Produced and Directed by Pat Maxwell

“Terence Rattigan’s Separate Tables comprises two linked one-act plays set in the same small residential hotel on the south coast of England. The play examines social attitudes towards lifestyles and behaviour deemed morally reprehensible in 1950s Britain.

The action of both plays takes place in the lounge and dining-room of the Beauregard Private Hotel near Bournemouth. In the first play, Table by the Window, ex-Labour MP John Malcolm, who has spent time in prison for assaulting his wife Anne Shankland, lives a life of virtual anonymity, writing for a left-wing weekly, New Outlook, under the name ‘Cato’. He is in a relationship with Miss Cooper, the manageress of the hotel, where Anne turns up unexpectedly. Their successful reconciliation is disrupted when John discovers that her ‘accidental’ arrival was actually arranged, and he suspects her of trying to ‘enslave’ him again. But Miss Cooper, recognising the strength of feeling on both sides, gives way to Anne, and at the end of the play Anne and John have tentatively agreed to try again.

The second play, Table Number Seven, is set in the same place eighteen months later. The focus is now on Major David Pollock, a long-term, ex-public school resident of the hotel, who has struck up a curious friendship with Sibyl, the infantilised, terrorised, fragile daughter of the tyrannical Mrs Railton-Bell. Despite Pollock’s best efforts to hide the report of it in the local newspaper, Mrs Railton Bell discovers that he has been arrested for molesting women in a cinema, and that his identity is largely confected: he never was a Major, and never went to Wellington School. She calls a residents’ meeting, and, despite many misgivings, they are railroaded into voting for Pollock’s expulsion from the Hotel. Despite Miss Cooper’s urging, Pollock prepares to leave. That evening the residents settle down to dinner and are surprised when Pollock also takes up his usual table. To Mrs Railton-Bell’s horror, the residents, one by one, acknowledge Mr Pollock’s presence, and tacitly accept him back into the hotel. When Sibyl herself, who had been utterly distraught and sickened by the news report, rebels against her mother, Mrs Railton-Bell leaves the dining room, and the diners continue with their meal.”