I believe I once mentioned that I’m a sucker for interesting narratives. So while The Norman Conquests is by far nothing new, it is interesting.
TNC takes place in three locations: a dining room, a garden, and the living room. TNC is at times poignant, and at others funny. As one could deduce, all the scenes interlock, and the cast is small – only six people: Norman (Tom Conti), his wife Ruth (Fiona Walker), Annie (Penelope Wilton), her socially backward boyfriend Tom (David Troughton), Annie’s brother Reg (Richard Briers) and his judgmental wife Sarah (Penelope Keith).
So here’s the rundown: Tom has been dating Annie for a long time (not disclosed just how long) and he’s never so much as kissed her. Norman and Ruth are not attracted to each other, and in fact make each other miserable. Sarah is an enormous pain in the keister, and she loves getting into people’s businesses. Norman invited Annie to a weekend getaway, and everyone else gets wrapped into it. Well, there’s far more to it, but I’d rather not give anything away.
Annie had a tryst with Norman – which seems unlikely considering what Norman looks like, but who am I to judge. Over the course of the three disks, one will watch Norman make a pass at all three women in the film. The thing is that Conti makes Norman come off as less of an absolute womanizing charlatan, and more like a hopeless romantic. Hence the Norman ‘conquests’ – nice tongue in cheek pun.
Another appealing aspect of TNC is the compounding effect of having seen all three. “Table Manners,” “Round and Round the Garden,” and “Living Together” can be seen in any order, but the story is best understood when all three are seen, one per night, three nights consecutively – like the original plays.
Conti is in rare form, and his performance ultimately shines throughout the entire story. This DVD release is a graphical update over its previous release, and thank goodness. The video quality now is without comparison to its original. There is a Blu Ray release, and its graphical update is an equal advance.
Fiona Walker is a pill, and that’s intentional. Penelope Keith plays that woman everyone knows and would like to punch in the face, given the right opportunity. Because of those, it’s fair to say that the director (Herbert Wise) did a fantastic job bringing all of these characters to life.
TNC was written by Alan Ayckbourn, and he has an absolute habit for these kinds of plays (multi-part, somewhat disjointed story).
FINAL GRADE: B
TRR DVD Revue by Geoffrey Beebe